How To Start an Exercise Program At Any Age

By Althea Cameron

The benefits of exercise are well documented, and studies show that it is never too late to start exercising. The Centers for Disease Control Prevention points out that older adults can benefit greatly from even moderate amounts of physical activity. One benefit is reducing the risk of debilitating conditions such as developing high blood pressure, colon cancer, and diabetes. Here are four points that you should consider if you are thinking about starting an exercise program after a period of inactivity.

Consult your doctor

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

This step is extremely important, especially if you have been sedentary for a period of time. Your doctor will advise you on how much physical activity your body can handle and explain how you should move forward. Your doctor will also give you pointers on recovery, which will come in handy during your first few sessions.

Think of what you love doing . . . and do it

Exercise doesn’t necessarily mean going to the gym. A walk around the neighborhood can be just as effective as time spent on a cardio machine if it means you stick to it regularly. Combining physical activity with a passion or hobby you have always wanted to do is a great way to start an exercise program and can also be a way of making new friends. If others rely on your joining them on a bike ride every week, you are less likely to give it up. 

If you used to be fit there is no reason why you can’t return to good form as you get older. Just as with those new to exercise, it’s important to start slow and gradually build up your strength and stamina. It can be worthwhile to hire a coach for a few sessions to help ease you back into your sport and advise you on additional routines to stay injury free.

Start a new sport

photo credit: pexels

It is never too late to start a new sport, and there are many health and social benefits that come with a new physical activity. Swimming is an excellent choice, as it is low impact, which can be better for joints.  An inspiration in this regard is Maurine Kornfield, who at 97 is the oldest active member of the 64,000-strong U.S. Masters Swimming. What’s more, she started swimming just before her 60th birthday and has since then set 16 world records for her age group. 

Also highly recommended is tennis. Melissa Neiman’s article on ‘5 Great Sports to Take Up After the Age 50’ notes that the benefits of playing tennis include “higher aerobic capacities, lower resting heart rate, and blood pressure responses, improved metabolic function, improved skeletal integrity, improved reaction time, and decreased stress reactivity.” 

Tennis, while largely high impact, is noted by Harvard Health to be a sport for life. It can be played even in your later years because it can be customized and slowed down (much like walking soccer) to suit your age and fitness level. You can, for instance, walk instead of sprint, volley rather than smash, or let a ball sail by rather than dive for it. These adjustments lower the impact in a way that even older adults can continue playing. This is the reason that former tennis pros like John McEnroe and Pete Sampras can still play, even after leaving the ATP Tour. While still having the ability to run around the court, McEnroe and Sampras have definitely had to adjust their games since. 

Recently, Sampras (47) played in an impromptu doubles exhibition at Indian Wells with Novak Djokovic as his teammate and fellow former professionals Tommy Haas (41) and John McEnroe (60) as their opponents. Sampras is one of the highest earning tennis stars of all-time due to his record-breaking Grand Slam haul, and he has continued to play exhibition matches well into his 40s. The fact that Sampras (and Haas and McEnroe for that matter) continue to play is proof that tennis isn’t just for people in their prime. There are even tennis clubs that focus on this demographic, and joining one is a great way to get involved in the sport. Not to mention, by doing this it will expand your social network, leading to opportunities to further improve your game as you develop.

Give structured exercise a chance

photo from pexels.com

You’ll need to step out from your comfort zone from time to time, especially if you don’t feel up to playing sport. Structured exercise programs such as yoga or Tai Chi can improve flexibility, enhance balance, and increase strength. A study focusing on how a ‘Structured Exercise Program Improves Mobility in All Older Adults’ underscores the importance of this type of approach, with the main takeaway being: Older adults who partake in “long-term, structured, moderate-intensity physical activity programs” have lower risks of mobility disability and frailty. It is also a good way to meet people who are also starting an exercise program.

Althea Cameron is a health and fitness writer, based in the UK. She is passionate about health, and the intersection with technology.

What to Do When You’re Not Ready to Quit Your Sport

Senior Games is speeding around the corners of the course at the Minnesota State Fair Grounds July 8, 2015 (©Jessica Gallagher 2015)

You played sport before: in school, in college, in your early career, and maybe even through the tricky years of parenting young kids, when there’s never enough time for everyone’s activities. Often other responsibilities take over, and exercise falls by the wayside for a while.

Maybe your game was softball, or basketball, tennis or golf. Maybe you ran or cycled: alone or with a group, competitively or just for the fun of participation.

The truth is that, especially if you’re a competitive athlete, it becomes harder to find your tribe as you reach middle age and beyond. Once the kids are older and you have more free time, the opportunities for you don’t seem to be there anymore.

Except, actually, they are.

photo courtesy National Senior Games Association

It is still possible to compete at a national level against your peers in many sports – from traditional track and field, to cycling, tennis, swimming, as well as golf, volleyball, and basketball, to name a few.

The National Senior Games was started over 30 years ago to provide meaningful competition for athletes all over the US who otherwise may have aged out of the mainstream competitions. Or for those wanting to start a sport later in life. Its founders are passionate about helping adults enjoy the health benefits from being active and participating in sport.

This week, nearly 14,000 athletes will convene at the Games, presented by Humana, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. All of them competed and qualified at State level last year to earn their place. From the youngest (50 year-olds) to the oldest (Julia Hawkins, at 103), they will take over the city for 10 days of competition, celebration, and cementing friendships.

Courtesy National Senior Games Association

Some athletes have been returning to the games each year since they started. For others, it’s been a way of reinventing themselves and improving their fitness as they get older.

They all speak of the great friendships they have made through sport, the travel opportunities (The Games is held every two years, each time in a new location. In 2021 it will be in Ft Lauderdale, Florida), and the excitement that comes from competing at a national level against like-minded people. They have found their tribe.

Zibrio is sponsoring the SAFE Zone in the Convention Center this year, where athletes and spectators can come and measure their balance, learn how to improve it, and enter for the chance to win a Zibrio SmartScale for their own home.

3 Simple Ways to Improve Balance

With the change of seasons, we often change our activities, and that’s when we can become aware that we don’t feel as steady or as strong as we’d like.

Maybe you’re getting back to the tennis court after the winter, or exercising outside rather than in the gym. Or maybe you’re just in need of a change. But is your balance good enough, or does it also need some attention?

If you haven’t been challenging it recently, the chances are your balance isn’t as strong as it was. The good news is that by adding balance exercises today, your body will soon respond, and your balance will improve. As with any exercise program, take advice from a professional fitness instructor or physical therapist and start easy. Don’t put yourself at risk of injury.

  • Stand up: In order to challenge your balance, you need to be using it. While many exercises that include sitting or lying can deliver health benefits, they won’t help your balance specifically. Make sure you include movements where you are standing or moving on your feet.
  • Use your legs: The muscles at the front and back of the legs, and the butt, are the most important muscles when it comes to your balance. And most of us don’t challenge them enough. Squats and lunges are important to do properly in order to protect your knees and back. If you’re not sure, get advice from someone who can watch your form and make sure you’re doing them correctly. You can also do this sit-stand exercise from the CDC.
  • Do it every day: You don’t have to throw heavy weights around, but incorporating a few balance exercises into your daily life will help it improve faster. If you can stand on one leg, try doing it while brushing your teeth, for example. Once a balance exercise become easy, it’s time to think about increasing the level of challenge, there are a number of tools available to help you do this.

Like what you read here? You can sign up to our newsletter for more tips and information, as well as special offers on Zibrio SmartScales and other balance products.

Free Balance Screenings

If you’re in Houston over the next week, come and talk to us, we’ll be out in the community. Get a free balance screening, find out how your habits impact your balance and enter to win a free personal balance consultation with Dr Katharine Forth, our human motor control expert.

Thursday April 11, 8-10am & Wednesday April 17, 9-11

Senior Services Center, 6104 Auden, West University Place, Houston, 77005

My Lucky Escape

good balance means you can live your life

Judy, a sprightly grandmother who prides herself on fully participating in her community, was unhappy when we called to see her.

We were visiting her upmarket independent living apartment in order to understand the typical fluctuations in balance over time for people going about their daily lives.

Judy was subdued: she had fallen, and although she hadn’t broken anything, she was scared of it happening again.

I feel I had a lucky escape this time,” she said.

Judy and a number of her friends had signed up to be part of our balance study where they would measure their balance as often as they liked, reporting on their daily health habits and any falls they experienced.

Since starting the study a month earlier, Judy had been scoring 3/10, which meant in the danger zone for falling. That day, Judy scored just 2/10. She was afraid her life was about to change, that she would have to give up her full social life and travel plans. “Aging’s not for sissies,” she said. “But it’s better than the alternative.”

Judy found that, after the first weeks of physical therapy, she began to feel stronger and was enjoying exercise classes at the apartments, as well as using the equipment at a nearby gym. Within 2 months she was scoring 5/10 (in the moderate zone).

“I can’t believe it!” she told us excitedly when we visited.

“I got a 5!” she called out to one of her friends.

When her physical therapy ended, she enrolled in a balance exercise class, and for the rest of the year, her balance scores were in the moderate zone. She visited family at the other end of the country, enjoying the freedom she felt.

When the Holidays came round and the exercise classes took a break, Judy turned her energies to organising social events with friends. She was alarmed to see her balance score drop to 3/10 again.

“I knew I had to keep myself moving,” she said. “I really notice it now if I take a couple of weeks off.

how measuring balance can prevent a fall

The following year, Judy was delighted to get into the green zone for balance. “I feel pretty good about getting 7/10 at my age,” she said. “Even though it isn’t high every time, it’s like a little challenge to myself to see how close I can get.”

“Measuring my balance has really opened my eyes as to how much my balance changes and how the little things I do every day have such a big impact.”

Should I Care if I Wobble?

should I care

What can measuring your balance do for you? You might already track your steps or heart rate. What is the benefit in adding something else?

Ellen is a long time runner, and personal trainer, who became interested in measuring balance. This is her story.

“At first, I was really disappointed to score only 4/10. Even though I know only elite athletes sometimes score 10/10, I secretly hoped I might at least be close. Especially since I train other people and feel like I know how to get the best out of my body, I expected to score high.

Then I thought about it, and realized, I spend so much time helping others achieve their goals, I was neglecting my own needs. It had been a while since my last event, so I wasn’t training to a goal. When I demonstrate an exercise, it’s just that – a demo, I’m not doing it as a work out for myself. I realized I needed to do more for me.

The first thing I put back into my personal routine were lunges. They’re an exercise many people avoid as they’re uncomfortable, but that’s where their power lies. You’re offset, your ‘strong’ side can’t compensate for the weaker side, and you have to concentrate. You can’t do it without concentrating, and that’s exactly why it helps. If you haven’t done them before, get some help to check your form: your hips should be level and square, and your front knee mustn’t go forward of your toes.

lunges for balance

Over the next week, my balance score fluctuated between 5 and 7. Finally, I reached the green zone, and I knew I was doing the right things for me. But I still wasn’t scoring as high as I thought I should be.

I scheduled an overdue appointment with my chiropractor, who warned me not to expect sudden change after my treatment. Sure enough, that day, my score dipped to 6, but the next day and the days since then, I’ve been scoring 8’s.

I’ve started to see balance as a check that I’m doing the right things, not just in terms of exercise, but also with my overall health. It reminds me of when I trained with a running specialist. There’s always a piece you can gain by seeking out the experts. My body can tell me how I really am through my balance.  I just have to listen to it.

Now that you understand what affects your balance, buy a Zibrio SmartScale and start tracking your balance today.

Shhhh. Big News Coming Soon

You’re going to love this. We’ve talked and researched and planned and tested. Then refined and tested and modified and improved. We’re so excited to share with you the next stage, the one that will matter most to you.

And the wait is nearly over!

zibrio at sxsw

Come and see us at SXSW in Austin, Tx this weekend. We’d love to meet you, have you test out our balance scale. Follow us on Facebook to find out where we are and what we’re up to.

Want to be the first to discover balance freebies, plus a limited time offer to grab a Zibrio SmartScale at a discount? Add your email below and we’ll make sure you get ahead of the crowd.


Give Your Balance Some Love

We spend most of our lives neglecting it, yet we depend on it for basic functioning. What would these simple tasks be like without balance?

  • Walking
  • Reaching into / up to a shelf or cupboard
  • Dancing
  • Getting up from a bed
  • Sitting down in a chair
  • Going up stairs
  • Playing your favorite game or sport
  • Closing your eyes for a romantic kiss

They all use multiple parts of the systems that make up our balance. So isn’t it time you gave your balance some love to keep it going strong? The nice thing about balance is that it’s not very high maintenance. It doesn’t demand outrageous commitment (unless your need outrageous balance).

For those of you who aren’t into slacklining 3,000 feet above a valley floor, helping your balance can be as simple as adding a couple of exercises to your gym routine. Or standing on one leg while brushing your teeth (obviously don’t do this if you feel it’s too difficult – see our balance training guide).

As well as training the neuromuscular system, exercises like Tai Chi, squats and lunges help with leg strength, which can be a key part of what is missing as people age. Even those who run regularly can benefit from the greater range of movement delivered by these exercises, and from working different sets of muscles.

Download Free Ebook on the Science of Balance

How Trendy is your Workout?

is your fitness on trend

The American College of Sports Medicine releases an annual survey on fitness trends each year. Want to know how trendy you are? Looking for the next cool thing to spice up your exercise commitment? Zibrio took a look at the results on your behalf.

ACSM surveys fitness professionals around the world, and look for trends, not flash-in-the-pan fads that won’t last. They’re designed to help fitness professionals and community centers decide what to invest in for their customers.

#1: Wearables

Up from #3 spot last year, wearables are once again high on everyone’s list. Whether you use them to track what you do, or remind you what to do when, they’re becoming the new standard.

#4: Older Adult Fitness

This has been in the top 10 for the last few years, rising from #9 last year as more people who’ve grown up with the fitness movement grow into the ‘over 50’ category. Baby boomers and the generations before them often have more time to exercise, value group exercise and can take advantage of the quieter times at the gym while younger generations are at work. Thanks to organizations like Silver Sneakers, YMCA, and other big gym franchises, this age group has more variety than ever to choose from: lower impact exercise classes, and balance specific workouts. There are also increasing numbers of personal trainers who are qualified to help mature exercisers with their health goals.

#10: Exercise as Medicine

This phrase is everywhere in 2019, along with its cousin, ‘food as medicine’. The medical establishment is increasingly citing the benefits of exercise, and not just for heart health or to manage weight. Many chronic pain conditions can be improved – or at least the symptoms can be managed – with the right type of exercise. There are even reports from the United Kingdom of doctors prescribing dancing to some patients!

#13: Mobile Apps

As fitness tracking moves to your wrist, apps available for your phone continue to grow in variety and scope: watch videos of how to do a particular exercise, take photos of your own workout, manually add untracked activities to your profile. Their usefulness and improved user interface pushes this trend up from #26 last year.

#16: Outcome Measurements

Possibly the most useful trend of all. If you’re spending all that time, effort and money on the classes and apps and healthy habits, you’d want to know they were working, right? Weight measurement has been around for a while. Now, especially when working with a personal trainer, you can measure a host of other outcomes that show you’re becoming a fitter, better you.

5 Simple Ways to Start The New Year Right

get in balance

Do you make resolutions at the start of a new year? Or do you think they’re just a waste of time (seeing as most people have given up by mid February)?

Or perhaps you’re completely contented with where your life is, in which case, we salute you! But for most of us, there are at least some tweaks we’d like to make, or goals we’d like to chase.

But promising to do something (or give up doing something) for a whole year can be unbelievably daunting. No wonder we fail.

Here at Zibrio, we put our heads together and brainstormed our most successful strategies for making things stick.

  1. Start Small: What can you do today towards your goal? 5 minutes of balance exercises are easy to fit in. Set an alarm to go to bed 10 minutes earlier tonight. Then repeat tomorrow. Soon, you’ll have stuck with your goal for a whole week, then two.
  2. Go Big: Think of something you really want that seems difficult. Running a half marathon, dropping a dress size before your daughter’s wedding. Imagine your feeling of triumph should you achieve it, think about it in great detail. Then break it down into weekly achievements. Get going on week one today.
  3. Be Accountable: It doesn’t matter if you’re using an app to count steps or sleep, or whether you put notches in your bedpost, but count the days you succeed in your new habit. It can be immensely motivating to look back after a month and see what you’ve managed to achieve.
  4. Reward Yourself: Yes, this can be as simple as bribing yourself with a new pair of shoes / going to the movies / having a slice of cake. Put it on a planner so that when you achieve the goal it belongs to, the reward feels justified. Set small rewards for early on, then space them out a bit to keep them feeling satisfying.
  5. Be Kind: Some days won’t go as planned. You’ll have a bad night’s sleep, or catch a cold. #life’snotperfect. Let it go. Think of one positive thing you can do that’s aligned with your goal, even if it’s not your goal. For example, if you don’t have time for that longer sleep, take 5 minutes for some mindfulness meditation to help you recharge. Then get back to the habit tomorrow.

As always, if you’re making a big change in your health behaviours, it’s a good idea talking it over with your doctor first. She or he can help point you towards resources, as well as help you make sure you’re not putting yourself at risk for injury.

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