Working out is essential for people of all ages, but it has some special benefits for people older than 55. The American Council on Exercise recommends incorporating aerobic exercise, strength training and stretching into your fitness program. The Cleveland Clinic notes that exercise -- especially a regular fitness program in your daily routine -- may add years to your life, and it's never too late to start. Before you begin a workout program, consult your doctor.
Dress for Success
Prepare for your fitness program so you have the best chance for success. Have comfortable clothing that doesn’t restrict movement. Your shoes should provide cushion, have arch support, and be appropriate for the activity. Always start your exercise program slowly and gradually build. If you start out doing too much, you may wind up sore or injured. Make sure you stay hydrated before, during and after your workout.
All fitness routines need to include aerobic activity, so select one that you can enjoy. Some of the best cardio workouts that people over 55 can do include walking, swimming, bicycling, swimming and dance. Start out working toward 30 minutes per day of cardio activity. This can be done all at once or in three 10-minute sessions. If you’re exercising simply to stay fit, do this three to five days per week. However, if you’re trying to lose weight, gradually build up to five or six days for 45 minutes each time. Aerobic fitness helps with a variety of aging issues including controlling your blood pressure, lowering your risk of depression, protecting against diabetes, helping to maintain a healthy weight and keeping your cholesterol at recommended levels.
The American Council on Exercise recommends strength training for all your major muscle groups. Keeping the muscles tone helps delay and may even decrease some of the issues related to aging, such as osteoporosis and balance problems. You can work the muscles with free weights, gym machines or calisthenics. Begin with a comfortable weight and do eight repetitions, gradually increasing to 12 repetitions. After the exercise becomes too easy, you may slowly add more weight and repetitions. Muscle strength begins to diminish as you get older, so strength training is essential to maintaining a healthy body.
After leading a sedentary lifestyle, you may notice that at 55 you're not as flexible as you once were, so work toward regaining a full range of motion by adding stretching exercises to your fitness program. Make sure your muscles are warmed up before you stretch or you risk injury. You’ll need to stretch all the major muscle groups. The proper way to stretch is to move into the position, hold it for at least 15 seconds and slowly release. Keep your breathing normal and avoid bouncing your stretches.
Your doctor may want to perform a stress test before you begin an exercise regimen. Set goals that are safe and realistic for your condition. Avoid working out in extreme heat, or move inside. Stop exercising if you experience dizziness, chest pain, palpitations or shortness of breath. Work out with a buddy to make your program more fun and to have an extra measure of security.
Debby Mayne started writing professionally in 1992. Her work has appeared in regional parenting magazines and she has been managing editor of the magazine, "Coping with Cancer." She was also fashion product information writer for HSN. During college, Mayne worked as an instructor at a fitness center. She holds a Bachelor of Science in health, PE and recreation from the University of Southern Mississippi.