We have all tried exercising on our own. Some of us are successful and some – well most of us are not. We have lonely exercise equipment at home and exercise DVD’s and apps which are victims of severe neglect. These are constant reminders of good intentions, but unfortunately not success toward improving our health.
Hats off to those of you who are blessed with the motivation and self discipline to exercise regularly on your own in all the needed areas of strength, cardiovascular, balance, flexibility and brain fitness. For those of us who struggle in this area please give group exercise an honest try.
Why group exercise? There are many reasons why baby boomers and seniors who participate in group exercise are more successful than those going at it alone. Let’s look at why and some tips on making this an enjoyable, beneficial part of your life!
ADHERENCE: Statics published by IHRSA, ACE, and several other organizations show that baby boomers and seniors who attend exercise classes or groups stick to it longer and exercise more often. The guidelines for exercise (AHA and ACSM) are that we need to exercise MOST days per week to maintain good health. If you have health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and others, daily exercise may be recommended.
VARIETY: When we exercise on our own we tend to do the same thing over and over again. This can create overuse issues in our joints and muscles, boredom, and we are less likely to improve when we don’t alter our routine. Changes in modes, duration, intensity, and sometimes frequency are recommended for all ages in order to maintain and improve our health. You would not drive your car without rotating or changing your tires, so adding variety to the way your body moves is important as well. This also stimulates brain function as it takes your brain out of the “auto pilot” zone.
ACCOUNTABLILITY: When we attempt exercising on our own we answer to ourselves. Well, I have often talked myself out of exercising, have you? When we exercise in groups, others are expecting us and notice when we are not there. At WellBound, we keep attendance so we know if someone has been gone for a while. If we don’t know why, we give them a quick call or email to check in if possible. It is nice to be missed, and knowing this is a good motivator to stick with your exercise routine. Agreeing to meet a friend at class or the gym is a great way to stick with your program.
SAFETY: When we exercise in a class setting an instructor is present to coach you and offer suggestions when you may need a modification for an exercise. There is no “one size fits all” regarding exercise. Your instructor should notice the way you move and assist with correcting your form or be able to notice if you are overheating, struggling, or wanting something more challenging. The instructor should also be following safety guidelines for temperature control and air circulation, which many people forget when they exercise alone. He or she should remind you to stretch, hydrate, and take rest breaks when appropriate. We also often forget to warm up, cool down and stretch properly, which an instructor should coach you to do.
INTENSITY: Of course when you are starting an exercise program you want to begin with light and safe exercise, but studies have shown that many of us do not exercise at a high enough intensity the majority of the time. This does not mean we need to do things that are not safe, but we often do not challenge ourselves when we exercise on our own. Researchers at McMaster University and published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism showed widespread implications for treating and preventing many health issues including dementia for seniors who exercised using short bursts of exercise at higher intensities. We have to elevate intensity into a safe but challenging zone in order to improve our brains, strength and cardiovascular health. Exercising in a setting with an attentive instructor who monitors your rate of perceived exertion and suggests appropriate ways to increase your intensity is the key to doing this safely. Baby Boomers and seniors who want to really make sure that they are getting the most out of their workouts will often find they see more results when they participate in group programs.
FUN: Exercising in groups is so much more fun than doing so on your own. Exercise classes offer music that may give you energy and promote the production of those positive endorphins. The social atmosphere created by exercising with friends and others you enjoy being around is a valuable asset to our mental health. Through my 37 years of teaching I have seen old friends reunited, widows and widowers find support and comfort through others who are experiencing similar circumstances of grief or depression, new friendships blossom, and even some romantic relationships formed!
Many of us thrive through the support and companionship of others, so try joining an exercise class, gym or group where you fit in and enjoy living your life!
Seek an exercise professional with a degree in a health related field, and a national accredited certification to obtain recommendations regarding your specific health issues. We all have different needs and safety guidelines to follow. Be sure that your instructor has a degree in a health related field and accredited training in fitness for older adults and specific medical conditions.