The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults aged 65 or older participate in moderate-intensity exercise for 150 minutes or high-intensity exercise for 75 minutes per week and complete at least two strength-training workouts. Following these guidelines can lead to health benefits like improved weight management, a lower risk of heart attack and stroke and even a reduction in feelings of stress and depression.
This doesn't mean that you need to push yourself past your limits when you exercise. In fact, working out at a level that is too intense for you could cause soreness and injury. That's why it's important to know the following warning signs of overexertion and be on the lookout for them.
Feeling breathless or winded while you're exercising is normal, especially when you're a beginner. When you're on the move, your body's oxygen needs increase and your lungs work harder. This means you may only be able to say a few words at a time, but you should be able to get out syllables. If you're so winded that you can't speak at all, slow the pace or modify the difficulty. For example, you might just move your feet and not your arms if you're doing aerobics.
Increasing your heart rate during exercise is a good thing. Doing so is what strengthens the heart muscle to deliver cardiovascular health benefits. However, you don't want to overwork your heart during your workouts. The American Heart Association recommends striving to reach the target heart range, which is 50% to 70% of maximum range. Target heart rates for older adults are based on age:
If you're over 75, ask your medical provider what your target heart rate is. To check your heart rate, find your pulse in your neck or your wrist. Count the number of beats for 30 seconds and multiply by two. You can also use a smartwatch or fitness tracker to monitor your pulse. If your pulse is above your target range, go a little easier with your exercise plan.
If you find yourself too exhausted to concentrate on maintaining the proper form when you're exercising, you may be going overboard. You should be able to think clearly and stay aware of your body alignment. When you're struggling to do an exercise properly, take a short break.
There's a little wisdom in the saying "no pain, no gain." Mild discomfort during and after exercise is usually normal. While you work out, you may feel burning in your muscles due to the effort you're exerting. For one to two days after exercise, you may also feel dull pain as your muscles recover from the activity. What you shouldn't feel is sharp pain anywhere in your body. Also, be wary of pain that seems located in your joints rather than your muscles. If you experience either type of discomfort, dial back the intensity.
After a workout, you're likely to feel tired, but once you drink some water and rest, your energy levels should return to normal. If a morning workout leaves you sidelined for the rest of the day, your exercise level may not match your fitness level. This is especially true if you continue to feel all-day exhaustion even after several workouts.
When you exercise, your body shifts energy away from the digestive system to power your heart, lungs and muscles. Overly intense workouts can stress the gut, leading to nausea or vomiting during or after exercise. Although these unpleasant symptoms aren't usually cause for alarm, they're indications that you're pushing yourself too hard.
Exercise should feel challenging, but it shouldn't be so unpleasant that you hate every minute of it. If you find yourself feeling anxious about future workout sessions, modify your exercise routine. Choosing enjoyable workouts isn't just a good way to avoid overdoing it. You're also more likely to stick to your fitness plan and achieve your fitness goals if you like exercising.
One way to ensure you're not pushing too hard is to follow an exercise routine developed specifically for seniors and perform it under the supervision of expert instructors, trainers or caregivers. Not only do may these programs reduce the risk of overexertion, but they also often include opportunities to get fit alongside other seniors. As a result, you get the opportunity to meet new people and socialize while participating in good-for-you exercises. At Grand Villa in Grand Junction, we're committed to providing this type of enjoyable group fitness for members of our assisted living community. We develop exercise programming as one of our wellness services, making it easy for our residents to exercise safely.