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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

For seniors, not just any workout will do

Jul 28, 2023 02:49PM ● By Don Funke

Remember when you could open any fitness magazine and do any of the workouts? Not so much anymore, right? As we get older, suddenly those old workouts are no longer appropriate. 

Regular exercise is a cornerstone of healthy aging. Workout routines tailored to seniors are crucial for maximizing the benefits and minimizing risks such as falling. 

With thoughtfully designed workouts that focus on the unique goals of older adults, we can enhance our physical function, improve overall well-being and boost athletic performance. 


This training principle states the adaptation of the body is specific to the type of stress imposed upon it. 

In the context of senior fitness, this underscores the importance of tailoring exercises to match the physiological, cognitive and functional characteristics of older adults. Exercises that mimic real-life movements and target specific muscle groups can help improve overall fitness, mobility and agility.

Musculoskeletal Health

Over time, our bodies experience age-related changes such as decreased muscle mass (sarcopenia), bone density (osteoporosis) and joint flexibility. By incorporating resistance training into our workout routines that are specific to the affected muscle groups and joint movements, we can minimize these age-related declines. For example, exercises that target the lower body, such as squats or lunges, improve leg strength and balance and reduce the risk of falls and fractures.

Cardiovascular Fitness

Cardiovascular health is vital for maintaining energy levels, promoting cardiovascular efficiency and reducing the risk of chronic diseases. We should engage in aerobic exercises that are appropriate for our fitness levels and take into account any pre-existing conditions. For instance, stationary bikes or ski machines can ensure we experience the cardiovascular benefits without compromising safety.

Balance and Coordination

Falls are a significant concern among seniors, as they can lead to severe injuries and a loss of independence. Specific exercises that focus on balance, coordination and proprioception can greatly reduce the risk of falls. Agility exercises can also help improve stability and body awareness and promote better posture. 

Some active seniors can perform fairly challenging agility drills and some will need to start with more basic exercises. Start with walking in a figure eight. Then step sideways in a shuffle-step pattern. Once you feel proficient in sidesteps, add some crossovers, where one foot crosses over the front of the other. From there, you could progress to “karaoke steps”—sidestepping one foot in front of the other foot and one step behind. The idea is to create a simple movement pattern and practice until it almost looks like dancing. 

Cognitive Function

Physical exercise has been shown to have positive effects on cognitive function in seniors. Specific exercises that require focus, decision-making and motor coordination, such as dance classes or interactive games, can improve our cognitive skills, memory and overall brain health. 

Psychological Well-being

Regular exercise can have a profound impact on mental health, reducing the risk of depression, anxiety and stress. Workouts that incorporate social interaction and enjoyable exercises boost our moods, self-esteem and overall well-being. This specificity in workout design helps create a positive and motivating exercise environment for seniors.

All of these factors are crucial for healthy aging, maintaining our independence and ensuring we enjoy a fulfilling and active life well into our golden years.

Don Funke is a certified personal trainer and chiropractor in the FlexRec gym in the Colorado Outdoors Complex in Montrose. 

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