Myth 1. “Exercising in Advanced Age is Pointless Due to the Inevitable Physical and Mental Decline.”
It is certainly true that we’re more prone to chronic illness and other health conditions as we approach our advanced years, but the weakness and loss of balance that we often associate with old age are actually signs of lack of exercise, and not old age itself.
And the proof is in the pudding: the people who don’t submit to this dangerous myth can run marathons, dance ballet, or lift weights all the way into their 70’s and 80’s. Of course, these people are exceptional and being an athlete in your golden years is not for everyone, but these cases prove that staying active and capable irrespective of your age is possible.
Myth 2. “I don’t have the time or money to exercise.”
This myth isn’t specific to seniors, it’s one that spans across all age groups. The truth is, however, that you don’t actually need to exercise for hours every day at the gym to stay fit. Experts recommend exercising at least 150 minutes a week, which is around 20 minutes a day.
Even if you’re very busy, you can divide this time into 2 chunks and just spend 10 minutes of walking in the morning and another 10-15 minutes of yoga, strength building exercises or sometimes even vacuuming your house or doing any other house work to hit your daily activity goal. Any physical activity counts, and so you don’t have to sign up for a gym membership to stay fit.
If you want to lift weights, you can use cans or bottles filled with sand as your weights. If you want to improve your flexibility and balance, you can try some age-friendly chair yoga. In fact, we have an abundance of free exercise routines that target different issues you can try at home right now, here are just five:
Myth 3. “Exercising at My Age is Unsafe, I’m Afraid to Fall and Break Something.”
This myth is one of the most popular and also one of the most ridiculous ones because it is precisely the lack of exercise that makes you have a worse sense of balance and less strength, and so every time you don’t exercise, you’re raising your own risk of injury.
Furthermore, regular exercise was shown to prevent bone loss, a process precursive to osteoporosis, when the bone density begins to decrease, so physical activity can actually make your bones stronger as well. The same goes for joint health, by the way, as studies have confirmed that exercising actually helps reduce the sensitivity, stiffness, and pain accompanying arthritis.
Myth 4. “Exercise is only beneficial for the heart.”
After reading about the previous myth, you can probably already debunk this one on your own. To be brief, exercise benefits your entire body, starting from your heart, blood circulation, your lung capacity, metabolism, digestive issues like constipation and gas, as well as your bones and joints.
But even that is not the full list of the health benefits of exercise, as it can also help your brain work properly, preventing dementia. Finally, exercise also promotes mental health in several ways, here is a dedicated article on this topic.
Myth 5. “I’m too weak to exercise.”
Often enough, our concept of what it means to exercise doesn't match our own self-image. We imagine someone who exercises as this bodybuilder or professional yogi who can do all sorts of incredible feats with their bodies. However, what is exercise to you isn’t what would count as exercise to them. This is especially true when it comes to people who just recently recovered from an illness or accident, who often find it challenging to raise their hands or get up from a chair.
Don’t think that to truly exercise, you need to start running marathons or turn yourself into a human pretzel. If you find it difficult to walk for more than a few minutes, or even if you’re bedridden, talk to a physical therapist or your physician and ask them for exercises that can get you started off on a path of self-improvement.
The best way to think of your own physical activity goals is “celebrate what you can do and your personal accomplishments and don’t compare yourself to others”.
Myth 6. “I Never Exercised When I Was Younger and Now It’s Too Late to Start.”
You definitely didn’t do yourself a favor by being a couch potato for decades, but that’s not a reason to give up on yourself now. It’s never too late to start exercising, building strength, and increasing your flexibility and balance. Certainly, experienced athletes have also reaped the long-term benefits of exercise, but the absolute minimum that starting an exercise routine will do for you is to build muscle, which will help stabilize your bones and joints, increase your blood circulation and lift your mood.
In fact, a recent study even showed that senior beginners are just as good at building muscles as experienced senior athletes. There’s also evidence that physical activity can help manage the symptoms of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, and prevent their development in seniors. So, even if you start exercising for the first time in your 60’s, 70’s or later, it will benefit you plenty.