We’ve all seen them — the stories about a senior who ran the marathon or climbed Mount Everest. We’ve reported on one of them here — Dickie Borthwick, the senior soccer player. While these are certainly feel good stories, they’re not the norm, right? While those seniors are bench-pressing their body weight, most others are dealing with senior weight gain, achy joints, and tiredness. It can be difficult to compare to those seniors if you’re falling off the fitness wagon or struggling to maintain a fitness regime. You’ve tried, but you just can’t seem to exercise like you used to. This can leave you wondering if it’s too late for you to get in shape, and that’s fair, considering the internet is filled with people as young as 28 wondering whether they missed the fitness boat.
We’re happy to tell you that it’s never too late to get fitter, no matter your age or circumstances. Today, we’re going to look at a few actions you may want to take and why you’re never too old to get fitter and healthier. Just be sure to always discuss your intentions and fitness plan with your doctor first. They’ll know what you can and should not do.
Never Too Late to Start
The biggest reason many seniors don’t try to become fitter or don’t succeed is the belief that their age makes it impossible. You may have heard this sentiment from a friend or even thought it yourself, “I’m too old to get in shape.” This mindset, especially if you have a strong reason to become fitter, can be really harmful, with some studies showing that one’s perception of their age can influence their overall health. It’s also simply not true.
If you’re alive, you can get physically healthier — all it takes is commitment. Once you’ve made that decision, it doesn’t matter if you’re 20, 50, or 90. You can reach a healthier, more physically fit state over time. Don’t believe us? A group of studies found that seniors in their 70s could regain muscle mass and be as strong as people in their 40s. Every year, seniors run marathons, beating people half their age (and you may be able to join them). We’ve even written articles with exercises that people who are bedridden can do. With the right attitude, your age doesn’t have to be a roadblock on your way to fitness. In fact, it can even sometimes be your gateway to it.
Age-Related Physical Decline
When it comes to seniors working toward fitness, we need to address the elephant in the room — age-related physical decline. As we age, our bodies don’t perform as well as they did when they were younger. It’s been commonly understood for quite some time, but science is also backing it up. The decline isn’t simply from seniors falling out of shape — the body does experience decreases in flexibility, muscle strength, endurance, and agility due to the aging process. This can directly impact your fitness level, making it harder to maintain an optimal fitness. Luckily, with exercise, you may also be able to reverse much of this decline, giving you all the more reason to get fitter!
Why are we bringing this up? It’s important to remember that physical decline as we age is a natural factor of life for a few reasons. First, we couldn’t write an article about senior fitness and not address the reality of age-related physical decline. It influences your energy levels, your strength, and your ability to work out. This is a monster you’ll be fighting throughout your fitness journey. At the same time, go easy on yourself, both emotionally and physically. Falling out of shape is natural. What’s important is that you’ve made a commitment to get fitter. Physically, don’t push yourself too hard, because you’ll only end up hurting yourself or burning out. Instead, find senior-friendly ways to exercise that are safe and fun like walking and swimming, for example.
Reshaping Your Ideal Physical Fitness
The most important thing you can do right now is to find a realistic vision of what physically fit can be for you. Throughout this article, we’ve used phrases like fitter, healthier, more in shape — all fairly open terms, because fitness is a deeply personal thing. Your top fitness level may (and likely is) different than that of another senior or a younger person. At the same time, some age-related physical decline is permanent, so your physical fitness from your prime athletic days may also be in the past. This can mean that what you considered fit years ago could no longer be a realistic goal for you. Ultimately, trying to achieve the impossible can lead you to feel discouraged and make you more likely to quit your fitness journey prematurely.
Instead, improving your current fitness should be your aim, since no matter your age or situation, you can always improve. It also means that the goal is both achievable and based on your individual fitness potential. While you could work toward running a marathon, that may not be a realistic focus for you. Depending on your current fitness circumstances, maybe jogging for a mile straight is a genuine accomplishment for you. Even something as simple as walking to your favorite coffee shop, which maybe used to be too far for you, could be a goal that represents being fitter and healthier than you are now.
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By working with your doctor (especially during your annual Medicare wellness visit), you can design a personalized and realistic fitness plan. Then, with commitment and patience, you can start to regain your physical fitness, losing weight and getting healthier in the process. All this goes to show that, while peak physical fitness may not be achievable, you’re never too old to get fitter and healthier.