Bust common misconceptions and see the benefits of exercise

By Roxy Kline, Director of Healthy Living at the Southdale YMCA

About a quarter of older Americans participate in regular exercise—don’t let a common misconception keep you in the sedentary majority. Read up on five myths about exercise and how you can work toward being an active older adult.

Myth 1: It’s too late. I’m too old to start exercising.

Reality: It’s never too late. In an eight-year study of more than 3,000 people ages 55-73, those who became active at the start of the study—having been sedentary previously—had a seven-fold reduction in their risk of becoming ill compared to those who remained sedentary during the study. A study from the Journal of the American Medical Association echoes this sentiment—and that even among the very old, initiating physical activity is associated with better survival and function.

If it’s been a while since you’ve exercised, the key is to start from where you are today. Start slowly and gradually work toward your goals. The YMCA is a great place to get started—or get started again. Find a Y near you.

Myth 2: I’m disabled and there is really nothing I can do to improve my strength and stamina.

Reality: If you have a chronic health issue, exercise is often a great way to improve how you feel. For example, a study from the Arthritis Foundation showed several benefits of exercise for people with arthritis, and that strength training might even reverse biologic aging in muscle cells.

If you have a medical condition, consult with your healthcare provider before beginning an exercise program. Together, you can explore options for exercises that are appropriate for your condition.

At the Y, there are several options available to those with a wide variety of conditions. Choose from Group Exercise classes like Arthritis Water Exercise, Fibromyalgia Interval Training and Multiple Sclerosis Water Exercise, or ask about our chair-based programs.

Myth 3: Exercise puts me at risk for falling down.

Reality: The Centers for Disease Control actually cites exercise as one of the top ways to prevent falls and lower the risk of hip fracture—especially exercises that focus on increasing leg strength and improving balance.

If you’re concerned about falls, the Y offers small-group, Trainer-Led classes like Building Better Balance and Strength Training for Seniors. Members can also request a fall risk-assessment as part of a free Wellness Consultation—just stop by Member Services and ask to speak with the Active Older Adults Program Manager.

Myth 4: I need to save my strength in order to get through the day, exercise will exhaust me.

Reality: According to WebMD, regular exercise can increase energy levels—even among people who suffer from chronic medical conditions associated with fatigue.

The key is to boosting energy through exercise is to engage in the right amount of exercise, and the right kinds of exercise. A good place to start is with a senior fitness assessment—which is free for members as part of a Wellness Consultation. Get more info and schedule a consultation at Member Services.

Myth 5: I don’t like to exercise, so I know I will just end up quitting anyway.

Reality: You can stick with an exercise program by following just a few simple tips—have a plan, set goals, find a support system and go easy on yourself. It also helps to find activities that you enjoy. Whether you like to walk, dance, exercise with a group or all by yourself, the Y has it all!

For example, Charlie is a member at the Southdale Y and regularly participates in classes like Gentle Yoga. For nearly 40 years, Charlie has enjoyed class benefits like stretches that make it easier for him to move, attention from the instructor to ensure he’s completing or modifying moves correctly, and the social connection to his peers. See Charlie’s story.