Seniors can overcome gym fears

Chronicle Herald, Halifax

Regular exercise and a nutritious diet are two of the best things seniors can do to maintain their health. Exercise can delay or prevent many of the health problems associated with aging, including weak bones and feelings of fatigue.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a person age 65 or older who is generally fit with no limiting health conditions should try to get two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, while also including weight training and muscle-strengthening activities in their routines on two or more days a week.

Individuals often find that gyms have the array of fitness equipment they need to stay healthy. But many people, including older men and women who have not exercised in some time, may be hesitant to join a gym for fear of intimidation. Some seniors may avoid machines and classes believing they will not use the apparatus properly, or that they will be judged by other gym members. Some seniors may feel like gyms do not cater to their older clientele, creating an atmosphere that is dominated by younger members and loud music.

Such misconceptions are often unfounded, as many gyms welcome older members with open arms. But even if seniors find gyms intimidating, they should still sign up for memberships. In such situations, the following tips can help seniors shed their fears and adapt to their new gyms.

Start the process slowly:

Shop around for a gym that makes you feel comfortable. Get fully informed about which classes are offered, and the benefits, if any, afforded to older members.

Get a doctor’s go-ahead:

Make sure to clear exercise and gym membership with your doctor prior to purchasing a membership. He or she also may have a list of gyms where fellow senior patients have memberships.

Build up gradually:

Begin with exercises you feel comfortable performing. Spend time walking on the treadmill while observing other gym members. Tour the circuit of machines and other equipment. Find out if you can sample a class to see if it might be a good fit.

Find a gym buddy:

Working out with a partner in your age group may encourage you to keep going to the gym and increase your comfort level. You each can offer support and enjoy a good laugh through the learning process.

Don’t get discouraged:

Anyone working out for the first time, regardless of age, will feel somewhat out of place until exercise becomes part of a routine. Give it some time before throwing in the towel. Once you catch on, you may discover you enjoy working out.

Choose a senior-friendly gym:

Some gyms cater to senior members. They may offer classes at their facility. Other niche gyms may only accept members of a certain age group. Investigate these gyms if working out with a younger crowd is proving too great a deterrent.

Fitness is important for healthy seniors. It can prolong life, help seniors maintain healthy weights and reduce their risk of injury.