You know staying active is important, especially as you age, so you're considering signing up for a local gym. The problem is, a gym can be intimidating! If you've put off joining a gym for this reason, here's what you need to know to feel comfortable and confident.
Exercise and healthy aging
Exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle at every age, but it is particularly important for seniors. Why? Sharlyn Green, a national trainer with SilverSneakers, says it goes beyond physical wellness.
"Regular exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight, boost your memory and decrease the risk for some diseases such as Type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease," she said. "It can help you stay independent and able to keep doing the things you enjoy. It's time to bust the misconception that gyms are only for younger people and fitness enthusiasts. Gyms are for everyone, no matter their age or abilities."
To help everyone feel comfortable and confident as a new gym member, Green recommends these steps:
Step 1: Get a tour
Have someone who works for the gym show you where everything is. Don't expect to understand immediately what it all does or how to use it. You're simply establishing baseline knowledge so you can build your experience from there.
Remember, don't be afraid to ask questions during or after your tour. Employees at a good gym will take an inclusive approach and be happy to help you by clarifying information or guiding you appropriately.
Step 2: Request a training programme
People new to gyms typically get the best results from a personalized program created by a trainer. Print out the program for reference and to record what you do - which machines, how much weight, how many times you lift, etc.
Another option: For those who want a hybrid approach of working out at home or in a gym environment, participate in live, instructor-led and on-demand virtual classes and use the SilverSneakers® GO mobile app to get workout programs you can tailor to your fitness level and track your progress. There you can access live options for people who want a hybrid approach of working out at home or in a gym.
Step 3: Know the exercises in your programme
It's important to know where the equipment you need is and how to use it. Work with a trainer if you have questions. This person can guide you on proper techniques so you get the most out of your workouts and prevent accidents.
Understanding the equipment and gym etiquette is important for your safety and others'. For example, you don't want to unintentionally walk into someone's workout space and cause them to trip, fall or drop heavy weights.
Step 4: Learn how to adjust machines
Understanding the purpose of a machine is the first step, then you need to know how to adjust it to fit your needs. Depending on your height, weight, fitness level and goals, you may need to adjust certain machines every time you use them.
When in doubt, ask. It's better to pause and use a machine correctly than go forward and risk hurting yourself or others. A trainer or gym employee can help you, so don't be shy.
Step 5: Know how much weight or resistance to use
A good trainer will guide you in finding the appropriate weight or resistance for each exercise and share that information in your program. Use this as a foundation and adjust as needed, keeping in mind that as you progress, you'll likely make changes to continue your health journey.
Again, if something isn't clear, ask. It's always better to start easier and adjust up rather than start too difficult and risk hurting yourself.
"The machines and different spaces at the gym can be a great asset for seniors who want to focus on their well-being," said Green. "Remember to create a well-rounded workout routine that includes stretching, strength training and cardio to help improve flexibility, muscle mass, heart health and much more."