Senior Exercise Basics: Getting Ready to Work Out

Even low-impact exercises for seniors should include the proper energy food, hydration, and at least five minutes of warm-up time. Your rewards will include a lower risk of injury—and a better mood and relief of life’s stresses.

senior exercise basics

For any senior, exercise basics involving finding your favorite routines and sticking with them. Your efforts will pay off with increased flexibility, strength, and balance---and better health.

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Regardless of any exercise activities in which you engage—whether they’re low-impact exercises for seniors (brisk walking, bicycling, light aerobics, swimming) or more strenuous (tennis, racquetball, running the treadmill)—you should begin with a dynamic warm-up. The most important of all senior exercise basics is to prepare, and it doesn’t have to be a long ordeal. Devote around 10 minutes to a proper warm-up before exercising, keeping in mind that the more prepared your body is, the less likely it is to get injured.

The best warm-up routine will vary from person to person, but the goal is the same: Break a sweat, gradually elevate the heart rate, and increase circulation.

Light calisthenics, slow-paced swimming or cycling, moderate-paced walking, and jogging can be effective warm-ups. Another method is to move the body through a range of motion that mimics the exercise you will be doing.

Stress-Reducing Aids for Exercising

Besides allotting yourself proper warm-up time, make sure you’re giving your body the right nutrition and hydration. Those factors are keys to preparing your body to deal with the stress placed on it during a workout, even if you’re engaging in low-impact exercises. For seniors and young people alike, the proper nutrition and hydration will make injuries and such conditions as cramping less likely to happen.

Another key factor: nutrition. What you eat and when you eat it have an effect on how you feel during exercise. Here are some nutrition and hydration suggestions.

Hydration Tips
(Adapted from the American College of Sports Medicine)

  • Drink 2 to 3 cups of water in the two to three hours before a strenuous exercise session.
  • Drink approximately 1⁄2 to 1 cup of water every 15–20 minutes during a workout, but adjust amounts according to your body, the weather, and the intensity of your exercise.
  • Drink 2 to 4 cups of water after your workout for every pound of weight lost during your workout (weigh yourself immediately afterwards).
  • (See also our post “Why Is Drinking Water Important? 6 Reasons to Stay Hydrated.”

What to Eat and Drink Before Exercising

  • Whole-grain cereals, bread
  • Juice
  • Fat-free yogurt
  • Pancakes, waffles
  • Fruits (apple or banana)

What to Eat and Drink After Strenuous Exercise

Concentrate on fluids, carbohydrates, and protein via these types of selections:

  • Whole-grain English muffins, bagels, crackers
  • Low-fat chocolate milk
  • Juice/water blend
  • Energy bars, low-fat granola bars
  • Yogurt, bananas, and other fresh fruit
  • Peanut butter sandwich
  • Pretzels
  • Pasta

The Payoff: Stress Reduction and Mood Elevation

Exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, can reduce stress by relieving tension and anxiety, serving as a diversion from daily routines, increasing energy levels, elevating mood, and improving overall emotional well-being.

Even though exercise doesn’t change the causes of stress, it can change our perception of stress and how we respond to it. Exercise seems to force the body’s systems to communicate more efficiently, according to the American Psychological Association, and this is necessary to deal with physiological and psychological stress. The more sedentary our lifestyles become, the less efficient our bodies are at responding to stress.


Originally published in May 2016 and updated.

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