Getting into life

How to start a health and fitness program when you’re over 50

There are 1,001 great reasons for you to be exercising, especially if you are over 50. I’ll bet you can even tell me what at least 10 of those reasons are. Even if you don’t consider yourself a health nut, just about every newspaper, magazine, news program and talk show touts the benefits of exercise.

So, I won’t beat you up with more reasons why you should be exercising. I will talk to you about why you’re not exercising and give you a quick “How to” guide to get started.

Let’s start with a list. I call this list, “The top 10 reasons people over 50 can’t exercise to get into shape.” Tell me if one of these reasons resonates with you:

1. I’m too old to exercise.

2. I haven’t exercised in too many years to count.

3. I can’t keep up with the new trends and what I did in high school doesn’t seem like what I should be doing now.

4. I have arthritis.

5. I walk with a cane or other assistance.

6. My balance isn’t very good.

7. I don’t have the energy to exercise.

8. Everything hurts.

9. I have high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease or other chronic illness.

10. Everything is so much more difficult now that I am (insert age here).

Here’s the thing – you are not alone. The “top 10” list I have just given you is almost exactly the same list of “reasons I can’t exercise to get in shape” that I get from people in their 20s. I will tell you what I tell them: “It’s not about getting into shape, it’s about getting into life.”

I can tell you that your life, the quality of your life will be immeasurably better if you exercise. I can cite article after article, studies and papers. But you know this already.

The hardest, scariest part of exercise is taking the first step. It’s the getting started that stops us.

You are over 50, you may have a few more pounds to show for your years of experience and you may be dealing with one or more of the problems listed in our “Top 10.”

Here’s your “How to get started” list.

Set a goal for yourself. Do you want to walk unassisted? Fit into a pair of jeans in the back of the closet? Comfortably get on the ground to pick up the grandkids? Get up from the ground after playing with the grandkids? Decide what you want to achieve with your health and fitness program.

Get expert help. Find a local fitness studio or gym that has highly trained personal trainers that have degrees in Exercise Science or some similar field and/or have a Personal Trainer Certification from a nationally accredited certifying body.

Make an appointment to meet with the owner of the facility and/or the trainer with whom you will work.

Ask to speak with your potential trainer’s former or current clients about the trainer. Remember, you are interviewing the trainer and want him/her to perform a specific job (to make you stronger, fitter, and healthier). You should be able to speak with some of his/her successful clients. If s/he doesn’t have successful clients, you may not want to hire him/her.

Get a guarantee of results. If you are asking the fitness studio/personal trainer to do a job, they should stand behind their product. If they do not, you may want to hire them.

It’s that simple. But remember, just because something is simple, doesn’t mean it’s easy. How can you make starting an exercise program easy? Take these steps:

1. Grab some friends and explore fitness options in your town together.

2. Look for a formal program that is designed for people 50+.

3. Check with friends and family members. They may already have someone they work with that they can recommend.

4. Check with your local senior center or in-home care provider for recommendations.

Because it’s not about getting into shape, it’s about getting into life!

Ginny Grabowski is a co-author of the best-selling book, “3 Steps to Your Best Body in Record Time.” She has an MA in Exercise Science and Health Promotion, is a Certified Personal Trainer and holds a Performance Enhancement Specialty certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She is the owner of AlaskaFit, LLC in Anchorage.

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