What is the best exercise for the older, obese adult?
Being old and obese is no excuse for avoiding exercise. However, considerations must be made in terms of what kind of exercise is best for the older, obese person.
“To get back into the best of health, obese seniors should still be exercising daily to keep their heart healthy and burn calories to take the extra weight and pressure off of the aging body,” says Monica Charlton, certified personal trainer and Silver Sneakers certified trainer at All Inclusive Health, a personal training studio in New Orleans.
There are quite a few types of exercises that are perfect for the older obese body. Let’s look at one of them — which can be done anywhere with no equipment.
Wake Forest University conducted a study showing how valuable simply walking can be for this demographic.
This can improve the mobility of older, obese people as much as 20 percent, says the WFU five-year study which concluded in 2011.
“This is one of the first large studies to show that weight loss improves the functional health of older people with cardiovascular disease,” says Jack Rejeski, Thurman D. Kitchin Professor of Health and Exercise Science, in the paper.
How the Study Was Done
The study subjects were 60 to 79 and were followed for 18 months. One group did no walking. The second group walked. The third group walked and had weight loss counseling.
The greatest results were in the third group.
To measure improvement in mobility, the 400-meter walk was used because it’s a reliable tool for measuring mobility in older adults, especially with obesity.
Walking on the job and at the store do not count.
“To best kick-start your exercise, begin with walking every day,” says Charlton.
“Walking is great because it’s low impact on the joints. To begin, you can divide your walking exercises up into smaller segments throughout the day.
“Begin to increase your movement by walking briskly, each week adding on more minutes.”
These segments can be done outside or in the house — but any house-walking should NEVER be counted in with normal everyday walking around the house!
Set a timer for 10 minutes and walk around the house non-stop, pumping your arms, doing nothing else BUT the walking.
Obese, Older and Walking on a Treadmill
There’s only one way to walk with proper form, arm/shoulder motion and breathing: Do not hold onto the treadmill.
Being old and obese is not a pass for harmful walking mechanics. Use a slower speed and swing the arms.
“Start out on a lower incline and speed until your body gets accustomed to it,” says Charlton.
“As your body gains strength and you become better at the treadmill, work on keeping your hands off the rails.
“I am against holding the treadmill, as it doesn’t give you the full impact. I explain to my clients that if they were walking up a hill, would they be able to lean back like people do when they hold the treadmill?
“When people hold the treadmill, they are not mimicking a real-life activity and they are failing to engage their erector spinae, quadratus laborum and other important core muscles that affect our posture.
“In addition, by holding the treadmill, they may be adversely affecting the growth and maintenance of their core musculature as well as leg musculature.”
Exercising While Shopping
The walking you did at Walmart does not count as your walking exercise, no matter how old or obese you are.
At Walmart or Sears, you are not focusing on posture, breathing, relaxing the shoulders, stride or other elements related to efficient exercise — not to mention the fact that walking at a store means stop and go, stop and go, and often includes slouching or slumping over to examine merchandise.
Set special time aside every day for your walks — even if it’s just five minutes at a time around your apartment complex.
Another Great Exercise Approach
Lift weights. This can be resistance bands, a weighted ball, dumbbells, a kettlebell, a barbell or even your own bodyweight with partial squats and gentle partial lunges.
All Inclusive Health’s training services include fitness/body composition assessments, nutrition planning, running programs and customized programs for clients with disabilities or injuries.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.