Staying Active: Navigating the Gym for Seniors

Remaining active is an important part of a healthy lifestyle for all of us – and particularly for older adults. By regularly engaging in moderate physical activity, seniors can increase their endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance needed to perform daily functions and maintain independence, according to the National Institute on Aging.  For first timers, navigating the gym can seem overwhelming. Here are some tips for navigating the gym for seniors.

While it might be intimidating at first, don’t be discouraged. Most gym layouts are similar in equipment and spaces. There are areas for stretching, cardio, weights, and fitness classes.

Many gyms also offer new member orientation ranging from gym tours to personal trainer consultations. If you’re new to the gym, paying for a personal training session can help you succeed with cardio and strength training, exercise machine instruction, and general workout guidance.

The Stretching Area
Flexibility exercises are an important part of a gym program. Stretching helps loosen tight muscles and joints for physical and daily activities and helps prepare muscles for exercise, according to the NIH Senior Health. Many gyms have a dedicated area just for stretching before and after your workout. You’ll often see tools like foam rollers, bands, and yoga mats for stretching.

The Cardio Area
Cardiovascular exercise involves body movements that increase heart rate and burn calories. The American Heart Association recommends adults perform 30 minutes a day of moderate-intensity physical activity, five days a week to improve overall cardiovascular health.

The gym cardio area contains many machines designed to increase your heart rate and get your blood pumping. The most popular machine is the treadmill which allows you to walk or run at various inclines and adjustable speeds.

Have bad knees? An elliptical trainer is a great option for a no-impact, cardio workout. Other machines you may encounter include stationary bikes, step machines, and rowers.

The Strength Training Area
Strength training exercises are equally beneficial. Just two to three workouts a week of exercises focusing on all the major muscle groups not only increase muscular and bone strength, but also improve blood sugar control and metabolism; decrease fall risks, and improve balance, says the CDC.

The strength training areas in the gym are usually divided into two sections—machines and free weights. There are weight and cable machines for the arms, chest, shoulders, back, legs, and abs. In the free weight section, you’ll find dumbbells, barbells and plates, benches, and weight racks.

Fitness Classes
Fitness classes are a great place for older adults to learn new exercises. Classes range from yoga to Zumba to chair fitness. Let the instructor know you’re a beginner so they can help you with exercise technique and modifications.

Tracking Activity
Activity trackers are a fun and easy way to track your fitness goals in the gym. The sleekly designed, GreatCall Lively Wearable can be worn on the wrist and counts steps and provides daily challenges to encourage activity. In an emergency, by pressing the button on the wearable, a call is triggered via your smartphone to agents to assess the situation and get you the help you need.

Remember, always consult with your doctor before starting any workout program.
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