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Getting Started with Exercise

Increasing the amount of physical activity you do can be a great idea for adults of any age. There are many benefits to regular exercise, both mental and physical, and it can help ensure your body stays spry and healthy, allowing an older adult to maintain their independence and standard of living for a longer time.

Experts agree that the minimum amount of exercise one should be getting is 150 minutes, or 2 and a half hours, of moderate aerobic exercise each week. Activities like, dancing, cycling, brisk walking, yoga, or tai chi count as moderate exercise. If you prefer to do vigorous activity, like running, you can cut the minimum time down to 75 minutes a week. Try to aim for at least three days each week of aerobic exercise, and mixing in muscle strengthening resistance exercises, like weightlifting or situps and pushups, at least two days a week.

If physical or other limitations make it impossible to get that much exercise when you start, don’t worry. Any exercise is better than none, and starting out with just as much as your capable of doing now, and sticking with it until it’s become a habit, will let you build up over time and work your way up to doing the minimum recommended amount and more.

The best thing to do when starting with exercise is to start slowly, with activity suited to your current level of fitness, and adding from there. Injuring yourself by trying to do too much too soon can lead to you quitting, or if you never fully recover, making your standard of living worse than it was before you started. Just like the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady is the best way to approach it. Like most new undertakings in life, preparation is key, so there are some things to keep in mind to set yourself up for success.

  • Start your exercise routine with low-intensity exercises. We have to learn to crawl before we walk, and so should you with exercise. No one can run a marathon on day one, so beginning with short, brisk walks will let you build yourself up over time.
  • Spending time warming up and cooling down before and after you exercise will help prevent soreness and injuries.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and climate, and be sure to dress and hydrate appropriately. While you may feel hot exercising, wearing light layers in cold weather is a good idea. And when exercising in warm weather, make sure to drink plenty of water to replenish what you sweat out. A good rule of thumb is that if you think you should be drinking water, you should be.
  • Consult with your care provider. If you have any chronic illnesses, conditions, or prescriptions, be sure to consult with your doctor about how any of them might affect your ability to exercise. Some limitations might make certain activities or exercises a dangerous idea, and some prescriptions can have effects like making you more prone to overheating.