For nearly 100 years, the Motion Picture and Television Fund (MPTF) has been helping members of the entertainment community to lead healthy and happy working lives, learning to keep that health and happiness strong as they make the transition into retirement. One of the most important ways that MPTF achieves this objective is by offering a wide range of health and wellness programs, like its Age Well program, for senior members in the Los Angeles area.
Programs like these are important because it’s not uncommon for older adults to have difficulty staying fit and active on their own, particularly if regular exercise has not previously been a big part of their lives. (This is often the case for workers in the entertainment industry, whose long working hours and sporadic work schedules can make it challenging to stick to a consistent fitness routine.) Organized programs that provide instruction, support, and most importantly, the encouragement of peers, can make a big difference to someone approaching serious exercise for the first time as an older adult. In addition, these programs can help debunk some of the most common myths that prevent seniors from embracing exercise.
Myth: There’s no point in exercising when I’m just going to get older anyway.
Fact: If you’re a senior, staying active is one of the most important steps you can take to help you look and feel younger and maintain your independence longer. Regular exercise lowers your risk for a whole range of health conditions, age-related and otherwise, including Alzheimer’s and dementia, high blood pressure and heart disease, diabetes, some types of cancer, and obesity. In addition, the mental and emotional benefits of exercise have just the same impact at age 65 as they do at 25.
Myth: I’m worried about falling.
Fact: You might be concerned that exercise will put you at risk for a fall, but in fact, the opposite is true. If you start gradually, you’ll find that exercise builds your strength and stamina, improves your balance, and prevents valuable bone mass from being lost—all things that can significantly reduce your chances of experiencing a fall.
Myth: Exercise is frustrating because I can’t do all the things I used to do when I was younger.
Fact: While it’s unarguable that you won’t be the athlete that you were at 20, due to natural changes in hormones, metabolism, muscle mass, and bone density, physical activity can still give you a valuable sense of achievement, not to mention vital health benefits. What’s most important here is to set lifestyle goals that match your current, not your former, strength and performance levels. And don’t forget, the factor that takes the biggest toll on athletic ability isn’t biological aging, it’s a sedentary lifestyle.
Myth: I’m too old to start exercising for the first time.
Fact: There are some things in life that you’re never too old to start doing, and exercise is one of them. In fact, many seniors might be surprised to learn that the physical and mental improvements they can experience through exercise are often greater than those of their younger counterparts. And if you’re new to exercising, chances are you won’t be encumbered by the sports injuries or activity-related physical challenges that regular exercisers may be dealing with (in this way, you might be more of a “clean slate”) so you may just find that you start seeing benefits and improvements right away.
Myth: My disability prevents me from exercising.
Fact: If you’re living with a physical disability, exercising may be more challenging, but it will not necessarily be impossible. For example, if you are in a wheelchair, there are a range of physical activities and exercises you can try, such as weightlifting, stretching, yoga, aerobics, and Tai Chi—all adaptive exercises for people with limited mobility. Any of these options will greatly benefit you by promoting cardiovascular health, boosting muscle tone and flexibility, and improving range of motion. You can also explore whether your local swimming pool offers wheelchair access, or whether adaptive exercise programs like wheelchair basketball or other chair sports are available in your area.
Myth: I’m too weak or I have too many aches and pains to start exercising.
Fact: In most cases, the best way to manage aches, pains, and weakness isn’t to move less, but to move more. Even simple exercise or fitness activities like walking can improve strength, build self-confidence, and boost vitality. In addition, regular exercise can help make you less susceptible to sickness and infection, which may be the cause of some of the aches and pains you experience.
While it’s never too late to get fit and active, the most important thing is to start at a level that’s appropriate for your age and ability and build gradually from there. And before embarking on an exercise routine or making any other similar lifestyle changes, remember that it’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first.