Older adults and the decision to exercise: can it work?

You’ll hear it all the time, that resolution to do more exercise with the new year. People may start the first week, but then go back to old habits for a sedentary life. TV might be more tempting than walking shoes, even if they have shoes. And excuses abound: it’s too cold, too hot, I don’t have time, or I just don’t feel like it. What does this do to the health of our elders?


In short, a sedentary lifestyle seriously harms people’s chances of enjoying a longer, healthier life. And some say they don’t care, they’d settle for a shorter life if they didn’t really have to get off the couch. But it is not about how long American elders live, about How do they live And how many chronic health conditions and disabilities will they accept for not getting up and moving more. Multiple chronic conditions include obesity, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, and more. Living with these conditions is expensive and requires a lot of medication and doctor visits. Nobody wants that. But prevention requires motivation.


How healthy are boomers?

According to a research study in JAMA Internal Medicine going back 10 years, we Boomers aren’t as healthy as we wish they were. More than half of the study participants did not do any regular exercise at all. The National Institute on Aging has clear recommendations for seniors. They say we should all get 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise plus strength training twice a week. Why don’t people do it when all the authorities say we should?

As an active practitioner in my 70s, I often wonder why my peers spend so much time sitting and so little time moving their bodies. One factor I know: exercise takes effort! We have to expend energy to get started. We have to do it when we don’t feel like it. We have to do it to prevent dementia, because we know that vigorous exercise protects our brains as well as the rest of our bodies. We need to do this to ward off those unpleasant chronic conditions.

YouTube to the rescue

How much work? Not all that much, in my opinion. There are fairly easy and fun ways to exercise. For those with elderly parents who haven’t started exercising, there are helpful videos to show what one can do without leaving home. Find some videos and play them for your elderly loved ones. (For yourself too!) The National Institute on Aging created Go4Life, with workouts on YouTube, that aims to encourage seniors to exercise. The free video-guided programs, 10 or 15 minutes long, are a great start.

If you want your aging parent to move, a wish I hear often at AgingParents.com, where I consult with families, you can show them what to do or do some of that with them. Your support, encouragement, and possibly participation can be very helpful to reluctant seniors. Anything is better than nothing! If you watch a video with your elderly mom or dad and offer to do the routine, this is a good way to connect and help both of you. disabled father? Many exercises can be done while sitting on a chair.


  1. The exercise takes effort, but it doesn’t take a massive effort. When we do, we trade Better aging To sit on the couch and recall chronic health problems. The effort is worth it!
  2. It is much more interesting to exercise with someone than to exercise alone. If you are You have a partner, a groupor even a regular video exercise set, that’s good for motivation.
  3. Get the right basic clothing and shoes. It’s not expensive to shop at the discount store for basic walking shoes, some baggy pants, T-shirts, hats, and jackets.
  4. If you’re not sure what to do to get started, see the Go4Life Videos And try a 10- or 15-minute home workout.
  5. The go-to favorite when no other strenuous or attractive options are available—just walk. Active is best, falling into the “moderate” category, which is great for heart health. In bad weather, you can climb stairs, walk in a mall, or do any long video with or without equipment, such as light dumbbells.


Changing my non-exercise habits isn’t that easy, but I don’t hear anyone tell me they’re sorry they started an exercise habit. It feels great to be fitter. It can lift your mood, help with weight control, and be the beginning of the path to the healthiest aging.

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