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Exercise & Seniors

Exercise is essential to maintaining good health at any age. For older adults, exercise is key to maintaining independence and ensuring good quality of life. The benefits of exercise include improved balance and reduced risk of falls, stronger bones and muscles, increased endurance, and improved sleep. It also helps you maintain a healthy body weight and regulate your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.

Walking is a great way to get exercise into your routine. Karen Drake, a physical therapist at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center, suggests these tips for older adults to help reduce the risk of injury when beginning a walking program and to stay motivated.

  • If you are 50 or older, you should check with a qualified physician before beginning any exercise program. Pre-existing medical conditions, such as high blood pressure or bone and joint aches, will negatively impact any exercise program - even walking - and need to be addressed before starting.

  • Initially, purchase walking shoes at a professional shoe store, where trained staff can fit your exact foot type.

  • Take it slow your first day out! Start with an easily attainable goal - say, five minutes -and then add a minute or two each day.

  • If you experience discomfort - particularly back, kneecap or heel pain or legs cramps - it may be the result of a gait problem, which should be analyzed by a physical therapist.

  • If you don't like to watch the clock, you can measure your progress by city blocks. Start with one block and add to it as you are able.

  • If you want to increase your workout, but don't want to add extra time, just walk faster or find some hills or stairs to increase the intensity. A good goal for starters it to get out for a walk three times per week and then increase it to five or even seven days per week.

  • As with all sports, hydration should be maintained. Drink comfortably, and don't let thirst be your guide. The amount of liquid you need depends on weather and walking conditions; sipping 8 to 12 oz. of water every 30 minutes from a hydration pack or water bottle stored in a fanny pack is recommended.

Hebrew SeniorLife offers a wide range of outpatient rehabilitation services for community-based seniors. Call (617) 363-8539 for information about physical therapy, occupational therapy, hand therapy, lymphedema assessments, driving assessments, speech therapy, audiology services, and bone density testing, as well as our memory disorders clinic and senior exercise/wellness programs.

Above content provided by Hebrew SeniorLife in partnership with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted July 2012

Contact Information

Division of Gerontology
Department of Medicine
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Lowry Medical Office Building #1B (West Campus)
110 Francis Street
Boston, MA 02215
617-632-8696

Contact Information

Hebrew Senior Life
1200 Centre Street
Boston, MA 02131
617-363-8000