- Written by Stephen Chee and Dianne Sullivan Stephen Chee and Dianne Sullivan
Summer’s here at last, and it’s a prime time to shape up and enjoy the many benefits of exercising.
If you’re an older adult looking to start a summer exercise routine, consider the weekly target of 150 minutes of moderate-endurance activity. This may sound like a tall task, but if you break it down into 15-minute segments twice a day, it’s a goal within reach.
Get into the summertime swing with these seven fitness tips:
1. Gauge your readiness. Before you start your summer fitness program, visit a healthcare professional to assess your current physical condition. Evaluate how much exercise you can do safely each week and the activities that will deliver the greatest returns.
Go over your medications to understand their potential for causing problems on a hot day. Several prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs can accelerate dehydration or nausea in the heat.
2. Start slowly and progress gradually. Begin with an activity you enjoy, go at a comfortable pace, and push yourself gently.
A good beginning point is to incorporate more activity into your day-to-day life. For example, gardening or washing the car are simple ways to get moving. Even small steps can add up over the course of a day, especially when you weave in brief segments of scheduled exercise.
3. Mix it up. Combine aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.
Aerobic exercises, which help circulate more oxygen in your blood, are key to improving cardiovascular health and retaining brain and memory function. Activities can range from walking to biking or swimming — anything that gets your heart pumping faster.
Combine your aerobic workout with muscle-strengthening exercises, such as resistance training using elastic bands and free weights, which support muscle development and help to prevent bone-density loss.
4. Keep your cool. If you’re planning on exercising outdoors in the summer, it’s preferable to avoid physical activity during the hottest part of the day, usually between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Try to stay out of constant, direct sunlight. Wear light-colored, loose-fitting fabrics, along with a well-ventilated hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses.
5. Drink and drink. Summer heat also calls for a greater water intake than during other times of the year, and proper hydration is a foundation for good health. Remember to drink water before, during, and after exercising.
The Mayo Clinic recommends about 15 cups of water per day for men and 11 cups per day for women. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, both of which can worsen the effects of dehydration.
If you experience any signs of heatstroke, such as hot skin, dizziness, or confusion, get inside immediately and seek medical attention.
6. Focus on your abilities. You don’t need to have full mobility to experience the health benefits of exercise. If illness, injury, or disability has limited your movement, you still have plenty of options for staying fit — indoors and outdoors.
Chair aerobics, a series of seated repetitive movements, will raise your heart rate and help you burn calories. You can also perform a range of strength-training exercises when sitting down.
Chair yoga offers gentle, stretching movements and deep-breathing techniques that can lower stress and lift your spirits.
Or try playing an “exergame,” a video activity that simulates bowling or tennis, for instance. These games can be played seated in a chair or wheelchair and are engaging ways to elevate your heart rate.
7. Make exercise a happy habit. It’s easier to stay motivated if you like what you’re doing, so try to make exercise fun. Work out while tuning in music, watching a movie, or listening to an audio book.
Exercise for a good cause, such as your community’s walk to end hunger. Consider games where you can team up and build friendships — bowling, badminton, or volleyball, for example. Research has found people who work out with friends enjoy it more than those who do it alone.
Exercise is the catalyst not only for physical fitness, but also for mental well-being. Along with reducing the risk of chronic illness, it can relieve stress and anxiety, raise your self-esteem, and brighten your outlook on life.
Turn the “dog days” of summer into new ways to boost your health and help your physical — and emotional — heart.
Stephen Chee is the employee wellness director for Lifetime Wellness, a pioneer in delivering wellness and recreation services to skilled nursing, assisted living, rehabilitation, and memory care facilities. Dianne Sullivan-Slazyk is the chief clinical officer for StoneGate Senior Living, a leading provider of senior living services in Texas, Oklahoma, and Colorado.