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Getting Started

A good way to get started is to begin with small steps. Don't worry about how much you exercise at first. Just focus on getting started.

Get equipped before you begin any exercise program. You'll need sturdy comfortable shoes that provide support. Your clothing should be comfortable, loose fitting and made from a material that will wick sweat away from your body.

The National Institutes of Health states there are four main types of exercise that older adults can benefit from:

  • Strengthening Exercise
  • Cardiovascular Exercise
  • Stretching Exercise
  • Balance Exercise

Strengthening exercise builds muscle tissue and reduces age-related muscle loss. Strengthening muscles can make everyday activities easier and it helps your bones. Strength training is also known as weight lifting or resistance training. There are many exercises that are safe and effective for women and men of all ages, even if you are not in perfect health. Strength training can help relieve many of the effects of chronic conditions, including:

  • Arthritis - reduces pain and stiffness while increasing strength and flexibility
  • Diabetes - can improve glycemic control
  • Osteoporosis - builds bone density and reduces the risk for falls
  • Heart disease - can improve lipid profile and overall fitness to reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems
  • Obesity - increases metabolism to help burn more calories and contribute to long-term weight control
  • Back pain - strengthens back and abdominal muscles to reduce stress on the spine

Cardiovascular exercise gets your heart pumping and blood flowing. Cardiovascular exercises are also known as endurance training. During endurance training, your body is in constant motion. Examples of these type of exercise include walking, jogging, biking, swimming, tennis and other forms or aerobic activity. You can start with as little as 5 minutes of cardio activities at a time. As your endurance improves, add more time.


Stretching exercise are designed to increase your flexibility. Freedom of movement will help you do more of the activities you enjoy. Before you start, follow these safety tips:

  • Check with your health care provider to make sure these stretching exercises are safe for you.
  • Always warm up before stretching exercises by doing some easy walking or arm-pumping first, or by doing stretching exercise after endurance or strength exercises.
  • Mild discomfort or a mild pulling sensation is normal, but stretching should never cause pain, especially joint pain. If you feel pain, stop at once and consult your health care provider.
  • Never bounce into a stretch -- make slow, steady movements to help your muscles stretch naturally.

Balance exercise can improve lower body strength. Being better balance also means reducing the risk of falls. Here are five simple ways to practice better balancing:

  • If you lift weights and use machines, sit away from the pad to work on those torso stabilizers.
  • Get an exercise ball. You can also simply sit on it while you watch television, speak on the phone or work on the computer. You'll work on your balance and burn a few more calories.
  • Incorporate simple balancing moves into your daily activities. While you're standing in line at the grocery store, try to balance on one leg for as long as you can. To make it harder, close your eyes!
  • Walk with a book on your head. It'll improve your balance and your posture.
  • Consider taking yoga classes if you are able. Yoga can increase your balance, stability, flexibility and muscular endurance.