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Aging: A Sport that Requires Training

geriatric fitness People who are anticipating an approaching retirement sometimes think I am kidding when I talk about “getting into shape for retirement.” That’s because too many of us have a picture of retirement in our minds that maybe has a beach in the background and a cool drink in hand or a comfortable couch with a big screen TV aglow in front of it. Wrong. If you are anticipating a retirement or maybe already retired – that is meant to include everyone – talk to your doctor first, and then follow this advice from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

1. Intensity: The ACSM physicians recommend one of two approaches to reaching the weekly 150 minute total. They recommend 30-60 minutes of moderate intensity activity five times a week or fewer, but more intense sessions fewer times per week. All of this is with the approval of a personal physician, and it is important to build up to the more strenuous workouts gradually.

2. Resistance: This kind of weight training is important as long as the weight is appropriate. ACSM suggests that sets of 8-12 reps improve strength and 15-20 repetitions improve muscle endurance.

3. Flexibility: It is recommended to improve overall range of motion and agility. Yoga is the classic approach to flexibility, and chair yoga can be more appropriate for older adults. Stretches should start out slow to warm muscle groups and should stretch to the point where tightness is felt. Increase duration of stretch with time.

4. Confusion: There is muscle memory and muscle confusion. The former is great when an athlete is in training to improve a three point shot or a great fairway drive. You want the muscles to predictably deliver a positive result every shot. But confusion makes use of cross-training and “missing up” a workout to enhance agility by consistently getting different muscle groups to work together.

If all this talk about exercise is making you feel a bit winded, then you may be a great candidate for a workout regimen. The benefits start with cardiovascular health and longevity, but my favorite benefit to getting in shape for retirement is that it allows you to eat more of the things you otherwise will deny yourself. Talk to your health care provider before starting a new exercise regimen, then get those new rubber-soled shoes and a pedometer. Be well!

Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to


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