Exercise For Older Adults Over 70
Benefits Achieved - Assessment
Since writing this Hub, I have attended every one of the offered circuit training classes, that is, 10 classes over 11 weeks (the trainer took a one week break).The classes have now stopped for Christmas and I wanted to assess whether I had received any benefits from attending. I was not looking for weight loss because experience over the past 30 years or more has shown me that you do not lose weight by taking exercise, (unless you are doing extreme amounts of exercise) but see point 1 for the slimming effect of exercise. Weight loss usually requires dietary changes but there have been other changes over the 10 weeks that have pleased me and helped me in my daily life.
- My double chin has slimmed out, even though I had not lost weight. The exercises made my muscles tauter and removed the droop. So, although I didn't lose weight, I looked slimmer in some places and if I had been doing weight training, that toning and slimming effect would have been even more noticeable.
- I can pick up and reach items on the floor more easily. At my age, that is a BIG bonus.
- I can get into a car seat more easily and without groaning. It had come to the point that if I were getting into a car, I had difficulty sitting down in the seats without experiencing pain in my hips. That has totally gone. Again, another big benefit at my age.
- I am sleeping better at night. Not just on the day of the circuit training class but every night of the week. It's blissful to get a decent night's sleep.
Exercise For Old People
A couple of years ago, while in my late 60s, I attended and reviewed the Insanity workout classes (https://caloriebee.com/gyms-classes/Insanity-Workout-Classes-Review) that were being run locally - as to whether a senior could attend exercise classes that were not specifically for old people. I enjoyed them and learned a lot about pacing myself and not trying to do exactly the same as everyone else
That class finished for the summer and never resumed, which was disappointing, as I enjoyed it. Recently, a number of exercise options have disappeared locally either for personal reasons or because construction work was being done. I have very much missed my exercise and when a local circuit training class was advertised, I signed up immediately, even though I am now in my 70s.
I was a bit concerned about attending as I have not been to any classes for a few years now and didn't want to over-do it or hold everyone else back. But the classes were advertised as being for all ages and all levels of fitness, so I paid the fee and went.
What About You? Are you Older? Do You Exercise?
Do You Like Exercise? Older = 65 years or older
Circuit Training Class
Benefits And Disadvantages Of Exercise Classes As An Older Adult
Attending an exercise class that is open to people maybe 50 years younger than you can be seen as challenging but if the trainer has prepared for all ages and states of fitness, then it is no problem.
People who attend open classes can have individual health problems, no matter their age. In the class I have started attending, some people have bad knees, others have neck or back problems and some are considerably overweight. Others are fit, for instance there are runners in the class. The trainer accounts for this by providing alternative exercises which can be done by those at a lower fitness level. He also tells those who cannot do a particular exercise to rest if necessary or even to march on the spot and encourages those who are fit to do the exercises faster or more intensively. Once I saw this, I knew that age was not a problem.
Some areas will run classes specifically aimed at those with health problems, such as recovering from heart attacks, or those who are trying to improve their fitness from a low level. These could be useful options for you if you are concerned about joining an open class.
Points To Consider If You Want To Take Up Exercise As A Senior
If you are older, you may want to think about whether doing extra exercise or more intense exercise is suitable for you.
1. Am I Fit Enough To Exercise?
Whatever your age, if you have any health problems, that could affect your ability to exercise, then consult your doctor or other medical professional. This could include heart problems, joint problems, arthritis, aches and pains generally, a serious medical condition or surgery. Many conditions can be helped by exercise but talk to your medical practitioner about your own situation.
2. How Much Exercise Do I Need?
The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK advises that adults over the age of 65 years who are generally fit and with no health conditions that limit their mobility should take 150 minutes moderate or 75 minutes vigorous exercise a week plus 2 days a week of strength exercises. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/physical-activity-guidelines-older-adults/ Similar guidelines are given by the AAFP.org in the USA https://www.aafp.org/afp/2010/0101/p55.html who also advise that if you are healthy, you do not need to consult your doctor before starting exercise.
3. Do I Need To Exercise?
If you are already meeting the guidelines for exercise for older people, you may not need to do anything extra. Although I may meet the guidelines already (lifting my toddler grandson and taking him to BabyDance class definitely counts as a strength exercise!), I do a lot of sitting at the computer and I want to improve my fitness.
4. What Sort Of Exercise Should I Do?
Moderate activity includes walking and cycling and vigorous activity includes tennis or running. If you have joint problems you may want to think about a water based class such as aqua aerobics. If you want to improve your mobility or range of movement, perhaps you would enjoy Yoga or Pilates classes. Some people may prefer to go dancing or gardening. Exercise classes suit a number of people and are often available at times that suit.
In my case, I have no health problems and I am still reasonably fit, running after one grandchild who is considered a "wild child" and lifting another who is a toddler. I want to improve my fitness and even lose some weight: and circuits are an exercise I enjoy.
5. Should I Join A Class?
This is often the best option for many people. Because you pay to attend, there is a motivation to get value for the money paid. You may be able to persuade a friend to go along too, so you have a buddy for moral support. With classes, you just need to turn up and someone else decides on the exercises to be done, which means you do not have to spend time thinking about this.
An alternative is a gym membership, some of which include various exercise classes at no extra cost. I took out a membership to a gym in my local town some years ago but let it lapse when child minding duties started to come along. I enjoyed it and would go back if I get more time. One benefit of gym membership is that you can get a set of exercises specifically designed for you and your needs.
6. I Like Classes But Can't Do All The Exercises
This applies to many people, whatever their age. I have met a football coach young enough to be my son who had a bad knee, women my age who have had a hip replaced and many others with neck and back problems. A trained fitness instructor can provide alternatives to exercises that these people cannot do. So age, provided you are healthy and have no mobility problems is not a barrier.
7. I Am Not As Flexible As I Was
No, me either. The exercise I find most difficult is the one called the "Burpee". The "Burpee" is hard for me because it requires getting down and back up quickly and jumping your legs out while down on the floor. I am a bit stiff these days. I found this exercise hard during the "Insanity" class too. An alternative for this exercise is to rest your hands on a bench or chair and jump your legs out and in and forget about standing up and getting back down. I think I may need to add Yoga or Pilates classes to my exercise regime in order to improve my flexibility.
One exercise I really need to add is the one for stiff hips. It is also useful for runners or people who have "dormant butt syndrome". This exercise stretches the tendons and ligaments around the hip and I have found them one of the most useful exercises ever for flexibility. See the picture below.
8. Some Exercises Can Cause Embarrassing Moments
The "Jumping Jack" is the exercise where you stand up and jump your legs out and in sideways and move your arms at the same time. This exercise is easy at the start of the evening but as a female who has had 3 children, I find it increasingly hard as the class goes on because my bladder is not as strong as it was before childbirth. Bladder control can also be a problem for older men. Others find this exercise hard because of knee problems. The alternative to this exercise is to step your feet out alternately to each side and cut out the jump part.
Special underwear or pads can be helpful in avoiding embarrassment. You can improve bladder control by using squat exercises and Kegel exercises. You need both of these to strengthen the pubococcygeus muscle, a hammock of muscles that support the organs inside the pelvis, including the bladder and bowel. Circuit training classes often include a great many squats: and Kegel exercises are easy to learn and can be practised while standing waiting in a queue!
The Basic Squat
Hip Flexor Stretches
Hip Flexor Exercises
Preparing For An Exercise Class
Eating Before Exercise
When I was young, I could go out to play, or go swimming straight after a meal, with no problems and look at adults who could not in total disbelief. In middle age, I allowed myself two hours after a meal before attending an exercise class and looked wonderingly at runners who "had to eat" before going out for a morning run. Nowadays, I allow even longer between a meal and an exercise class. Food takes longer to digest and it's very likely that I eat more at each meal than I did when a child. Memories of previous uncomfortable and embarrassing moments are great motivators to stop me eating too late before a planned exercise session.
Drinking Before Exercise
I live in a temperate country. I was never used to carrying a water bottle with me everywhere I went and I still don't these days. On exercise days, I drink half my normal amount in the early part of the day and save the rest for after I return from exercise. I know many people carry a bottle with them to class and the trainer allows drink breaks but that would make exercise difficult for me.
I need to lose weight anyway and I know from past experience that exercise alone will not shift it. One of the methods I have found works for me in losing weight is intermittent fasting, where you eat only 500 (women) or 600 (men) calories on one or two days of the week. Planning for my evening exercise class allows me to practice intermittent fasting on one day a week. I eat the allowance before lunch. After exercise, I am not hungry. This is normal because your body diverts the blood supply from your gut to your muscles during exercise and this effect lasts for several hours afterwards.
Attending The Circuit Training Class
Update: Have just attended week 3, with a lot of floor work, including 3 different kinds of push ups, sit-ups, crunches and squats. Fewer again attended this week but still a good turn out and I am enjoying sweating!
My local class started last week and I have now attended two sessions. At the first class, I took it quite easy because I was concerned about overdoing it but was surprised to find it no problem, so I worked a bit harder the second week.
Both weeks, the trainer had us do a warm up session. This involved jogging slowly round the hall, with variations including heels to backside and high knees. Then we would stop and do twists and jumping jacks. Then more jogging and more twisting and stretching exercises as our muscles warmed up.
Main Exercise Session
The first week, there was a very large class and exercises were done in a double ring. These included squats, burpees, jumping jacks, spotty dogs, lunges, back lunges, wall squats and a number of floor exercises, including press ups, sit ups, hip raises, leg raises, scissors, cycles and the plank.
The second week, there were fewer there and the exercises were carried out in groups of two or 4s and 5s at various stations around the room. These included skipping, burpees, inclined press ups, prisoner squats, sit ups and shuttle runs.
Cool Down And Stretches
These included floor stretches like twists and standing stretches for the triceps and legs.
I am very much enjoying this class and wish it would run two or three times a week. I know my flexibility has slipped so I may join a local Yoga or Pilates class. There are some run locally. I certainly feel better for getting a bit more exercise and have not noticed any increase in stiffness or sore muscles.
It seems that this trainer runs a bootcamp, so I will see what that might entail. Watch this space.