As a member of the Baby Boomer Generation, I am pleased to see that on the whole we are a generation maintaining our physical fitness levels far better than our parents did. However, fitness for people over 60, whether yourself or your parents, is still being sorted out as to what is enough, what is safe, and what is necessary to live a long and healthy life.
I have worked with a lot of clients over the age of 60 and the one thing all have in common is reduced flexibility, strength and endurance. For me the key is not to attempt to get them toned or muscular (“lean and mean”) but rather to simply help them regain confidence that their body can support their lifestyle.
If golf and travel (i.e., long walks as a tourist) is their goal, I work on improving their balance and lower back strength. If keeping up with the grandchildren is their focus, then I work on cardio endurance and flexibility (got to be able to get down on the floor with the little ones right?).
My mother is a great example of my approach to senior fitness. At 78 she suffered a minor fall at home, and although no major damage was done, she lost her confidence that she would walk with stability, and more importantly, that she could get herself up off the ground. She cancelled her annual culinary trip to Europe (her passion) because she felt only my Dad could pick her up and he did not attend her annual trips.
I was not willing to let her lose the ability to enjoy such a simple passion, but I was well aware that she disliked exercise. But I pleaded my case, and as I live out of state, I found her a local pilates trainer who spent six months working with her on floor stretches and core strengthening. The result, my mother can now get herself up off the ground, and has regained leg strength and balance, as well as her physical confidence. The following year, off to Europe she went. Now in her 80’s she performs the pilates exercises every day along with 10 minutes of elliptical. We weren’t trying to alter her body to any dramatic effect, just enough to help her keep up with her chosen lifestyle.
So if you have parents or loved ones who are giving up on their passions because their bodies just can’t keep up, lovingly nag them to try gentle, once a week exercises and movements like water aerobics, beginners yoga, pilates for seniors, etc. and in a very short time they can regain enough physical fitness to enjoy their hobbies, grandkids, or independence.
Now of course nutrition plays a huge role in maintaining healthy insides as well. Hopefully they can follow a low-fat, un-processed clean and lean approach to food, keeping in mind that with moderation, they can still enjoy their comfort foods.