Welcome to the 8-Week Calisthenics for Seniors Program!
Written by: Coach Todd
What follows is a comprehensive, easy-to-follow program specifically designed for senior citizens looking to build a foundation of physical health, following the guidelines and research of experts in the field of senior fitness.
Before we go any further, we do need to give a quick disclaimer:
This free program, while carefully researched, is by no means a “be-all, fix-all” solution for everyone. Seniors, especially those dealing with ailments like joint pain, arthritis, recent injuries or any other physical restrictions should always consult their doctor before changing their diet or beginning any new exercise program. It’s important to push yourself; however it’s even more important to listen to your body and not push it beyond its limits.
Why a Calisthenics for Seniors Program?
We’re very lucky to have a large and diverse community of fitness enthusiasts. We engage people who have been actively involved in fitness their whole lives, as well as those who have not exercised a day in their lives. We try to offer something for everyone so that no matter where you are in your fitness journey, we can be a resource for you.
A considerable portion of our online community is senior citizens (people over the age of 65). While we have other low-impact programs targeted toward beginners, such as the Calisthenics for Beginners program, we realized that nothing we had was an ideal starting point for seniors, and we wanted them to feel represented as well.
And if you look around the web, you’ll find very few programs specifically designed for seniors. This could leave a person feeling dejected, and they could lose their motivation to try to get in shape. We do not want this to happen at all. Even more importantly, we don’t want seniors to get the idea that they don’t need to exercise. Physical activity is important for everyone, and that includes seniors!
The National Institute of Aging recommends 30 minutes of endurance training most or all days of the week:
“Try to build up to at least 30 minutes of activity that makes you breathe hard on most or all days of the week. Every day is best. That’s called an endurance activity because it builds your energy or ‘staying power.’ You don’t have to be active for 30 minutes all at once. Ten minutes at a time is fine.”
The National Institute of Health, Senior Health says being a senior citizen is no reason to slow down:
“Regular physical activity and exercise are important to the physical and mental health of almost everyone, including older adults. Staying physically active and exercising regularly can produce long-term health benefits and even improve health for some older people who already have diseases and disabilities. That’s why health experts say that older adults should aim to be as active as possible.”
And when you’re physically active, you’re able to enjoy your golden years to their fullest. That means you’re able to do things like keep up with your grandchildren while playing, dance at a family wedding, enjoy gardening and do the things you enjoy doing for yourself that make you truly independent.
Beyond these reasons, though, while none of our small team at A Shot of Adrenaline are seniors ourselves, we are all blessed (as we’re sure you are, too) to have many seniors in our lives: parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends, coworkers, etc. And we want everyone to be able to live their lives as fully as possible. Just because you’ve reached your “golden years” doesn’t mean you have to stop being active, right?
After all, we only get one body. And it’s our responsibility to care for it as long as we have it. Doing so will allow you to enrich not only your life, but the lives of those around you. That’s really what we’re all about at A Shot of Adrenaline. To us, it’s not about spending hours and hours a day at the gym so you can have a ripped physique with bulging muscles. We want you to be able to live your live to the fullest (as cheesy as that may sound), and having a body that can perform to its full capabilities is an integral part of that.
Typical Concerns Stopping Seniors from Exercising
Now, that said, there are still legitimate concerns some seniors may have upon considering a new exercise program. Let’s take some time now to address as many of these as we can.
Concern #1: “I’m too old to exercise”
No, you’re not! We discussed this earlier, but it’s just as important for seniors to get exercise as it is for anyone else. Just because you get older doesn’t mean you need to start accepting certain limitations. In fact, a lot of those limitations may have a lot to do with a sedentary lifestyle than anything else. Alicia I. Arbaje, MD, MPH, assistant professor of Geriatrics and Gerontology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore says A lot of the symptoms we associate with old age, such as weakness and loss of balance, are actually symptoms of inactivity, not age.
Concern #2: “I haven’t exercised in years (or ever)”
That’s OK! You don’t have to dive back in, head first. What we mean by that is, you shouldn’t expect to compete in a marathon anytime soon, but you can still take small, incremental steps toward a great exercise regimen.
This 8-week calisthenics program is going to be a great place for you to start. We begin with basics and will gradually move through a system designed for you to grow. By the end of this 8-week journey, you will call yourself an athlete!
Concern #3: “People my age don’t exercise”
Don’t be so sure! There are plenty of people that are kicking butt in their later years… and even making the young people jealous of their abilities!
Just check out our article about senior citizens from the ages of 50 all the way to their late 80s showing some incredible feats of athleticism. We’re sure you’ll be inspired once you see what these people have done, and what you’re really capable of.
Concern #4: “It will worsen my Arthritis”
“Arthritis is probably the number one condition that people 65 or older contend with,” says geriatrician Marie Bernard, MD, deputy director of the National Institute on Aging.
The Center for Disease Control estimates almost half (49.7) of all adults over the age of 65 are affected by arthritis. Many know of the pain and discomfort it can cause, as well as impending on the ability to enjoy treasured physical activities.
Still, it is important to not let that stop you. “Exercise is crucial for people with arthritis,” writes The Mayo Clinic. “It increases strength and flexibility, reduces joint pain, and helps you combat fatigue… Even moderate exercise can ease your pain and help you maintain a healthy weight.”
Concern #5: “I’ve had a recent injury”
Just like folks who haven’t exercised in a very long time or ever, those with a recent injury can get back into the swing of fitness if it’s done carefully and reasonably. Does it take time? Of course it does. Injuries can take weeks or months to heal. If you check with your doctor, however, and begin easing your way back into simple things like flexibility and balance, you should be able to get back in the groove.
And remember, even if you feel like you’re not making any progress, don’t give up. Our bodies can show changes in many different ways; some of which aren’t as noticeable as others.
Benefits of Exercising When You’re Older
We’ve already discussed how exercise can help seniors with things like arthritis and recent injuries, but that’s not what this is all about! We want you to get the full picture of all the benefits of exercising when you’re a senior.
Benefit #1: Prevents or Delays Disease
Exercise has been proven to be a key component in preventing or delaying diseases. One study found that a program of physical activity provided a modest improvement in cognition for adults with subjective memory impairment. The National Parkinson Foundation says “for people with PD, exercise is not only healthy, but a vital component to maintaining balance, mobility and daily living activities.”
The American Diabetes Association says when you are more active, your cells become more sensitive to insulin, thereby allowing it to work more effectively. This means they can also remove glucose from the blood using a mechanism totally separate from insulin during exercise.
An exercise regimen has also been shown to alleviate the symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Your risk of high blood pressure increases with age, but exercise can help keep it in check. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, “Becoming more active can lower your systolic blood pressure — the top number in a blood pressure reading — by an average of 4 to 9 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). That’s as good as some blood pressure medications.”
Benefit #2: Improves Stress Levels and Mood
If you think that worrying about exercising, and then performing the activities themselves will only hurt your mental well-being, that’s actually not true! Study after study has shown that your mood improves when you’re regularly exercising. It’s even been suggested that an exercise training program may be considered an alternative to antidepressants for treatment of depression in older persons.
According to National Institute of Helath, Senior Health, “regular, moderate physical activity can help manage stress and improve mood.”
Benefit #3: Gives You Freedom to Do the Things You Love
Think about the things you really enjoy doing. It doesn’t need to be physically strenuous; that’s the point. Because we believe (and science backs this position) regular exercise can help in just about every aspect of your everyday life. That means you are free to do things that really matter to you. A few examples:
- Keep up with your grandchildren while playing
- Dance at a family wedding
- Do your own gardening
- Swim at a pool party
- Travel without physical limitations
- Play cards or games with friends
- Read your favorite books
- Express yourself artistically
- And so much more
Benefit #4: More Independence
From the time we reach young adulthood (and often even earlier) we strive for our own independence. This is a need that never diminishes; unfortunately, though, our bodies can. The most common factor in a senior losing their independence is physical limitations.
Sometimes, these are unavoidable due to genetics or disease. That said, an exercise regimen is critical for those yearning to maintain their independence. After all, independence can instill a sense of purpose and allow us to achieve our other goals. A report from the Lifestyle Intervention and Independence for Elders found that exercise can stave off disability and also lessened the likelihood of an episode of disability.
Why Seniors Should be Doing Bodyweight Training
If you’re considering giving this program a try, you may be wondering why we’re so dedicated to calisthenics, or bodyweight training.
The truth is, we don’t want to sound like other fitness companies that promise to have “the BEST solution.” Calisthenics is a great option for some; others, not so much. We do have a few reasons why we love it, and why we think elders will love it, too.
Benefit #1: No Need for a Big Starting Investment
A great benefit of calisthenics training is that you need very little to no equipment for your training.
Needing no equipment means that you don’t have to buy anything expensive to start training. Of course as you become more advanced some equipment might become necessary (e.g. pull up bar, rings, etc), but the investment is still very small in comparison to weight training, in which expensive equipment becomes necessary later on. (There are some weight training methods that also share the same advantage like, for example, sandbag training.)
Benefit #2: You Can Train Anywhere
A direct byproduct of the first benefit is that you can train everywhere since there is no need for access to special equipment.
This was one of the reasons calisthenics seemed such an attractive choice to me early on in my training.
Being able to workout anywhere you desire is a great privilege that few other forms of training offer. This way it’s very hard to miss workouts due to circumstances (i.e. when traveling) and you can stay in top physical shape wherever you are.
Benefit #3: Target Multiple Muscles Simultaneously
When you progress into advanced calisthenics moves you are going to be challenged in multiple ways and not only in regards to maximal strength.
As a result, you are going to build strength, balance, mobility, flexibility, etc.
Also with calisthenics, you are going to build a lot of kinesthetic awareness, body control and be in better touch with your body in general.
Benefit #4: Safety
Calisthenics is a naturally safer alternative to lifting heavy weights or using equipment. Less weight means less strain on your muscles and joints. This goes for not just senior citizens, but everyone. We’re big believers in “less is more,” meaning the less complicated a workout can be, the better. Why feel like you have to rely on some complicated machine to get a workout when you’ve got all the necessary tools on your person?
Bodyweight exercises are a perfect solution for people with arthritis, joint pain or other typical symptoms of aging.
What to Watch Out for When Exercising
We definitely want you to push yourself when doing this program. After all, you’re capable of much more than you think. Of course, there are precautions that we certainly want to make sure you keep in mind.
The Right and Wrong Kinds of Pain
They say “No pain, no gain,” and that’s mostly true. You have to be willing to go beyond your perceived limits when exercising. That’s true for everyone of all ages. It is important, though, to understand what good pain is and what is a warning sign.
For example, soreness and a feeling of tightness in your muscles is usually a good thing — that means your muscles are getting blood flow and can engage in hypertrophy — meaning they’re getting bigger and more toned!
Pain in your joints, nagging pain that stays for longer than a few days, and any discomfort outside of your muscles is generally not good. Make sure you can identify the difference and consult your doctor if you experience any of this.
Monitor Your Heart Rate
The American Heart Association has a very handy chart for understanding what a healthy heart rate is while exercising (as well as how to calculate it). They say that a senior’s Average Maximum Heart Rate should be somewhere between 150-155 beats per minute. If your number is too high, you’re straining, and should slow down.
Again, it’s awesome that you’re pushing yourself; however we want to make sure you’re pushing yourself in a controlled manner.
Watch For Dizziness
Getting dizzy during a workout is one of those symptoms that can be triggered by things both troublesome and otherwise. As Health.com explains, it could have a simple explanation like dehydration or over-exertion; in which case, make sure you drink plenty of water and remember what we said about not pushing yourself too hard.
If you’re getting dizzy even from light exercise, though, it could be a sign of exercise-induced asthma. If that’s the case, your doctor could prescribe you an inhaler prior to exercise. However, dizziness could also be a symptom of arrhythmia, or a heart with an abnormal rhythm. The treatments for these can vary, but if you think you may have an arrhythmia, you should speak with your doctor.
Avoid Shortness of Breath
Running low on breath during exercise is basically normal in principle; after all, if you’re pushing yourself, it’s natural to be winded afterwards. Just like dizziness, though, if you are experiencing shortness of breath while performing light exercise — or even no exercise at all — you should speak with your doctor. Again, causes of this vary greatly, so be sure to check with your doctor if it’s something you experience regularly.
You must make sure you’re getting enough water when exercising. Staying hydrated is critical to your health overall; and when you’re in a workout, failing to do so can have serious consequences. Keep an eye out for the early signs — fatigue, cramps, or a high pulse — and always keep a bottle handy.
Remember, hydration doesn’t start at the beginning of the workout; stay hydrated throughout the day.
The Calisthenics For Seniors Program
Alright, let’s get to work!
As you’ll see, the 8-week Calisthenics For Seniors Program is broken up into 4 sections: Weeks 1-2, Weeks 3-4, Weeks 5-6, and Weeks 7-8. We recommend you at least start out at the beginning; however, if you find it too easy, you can move on to another section. Before you do that, though, make sure you are using correct form for each exercise. It’s much more important that you can perform the exercises properly than how fast you advance through the course.
Weeks 1 & 2
You will perform this routine 3 times per week. We suggest not doing it on consecutive days; so for example, do this routine on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, or Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
In addition to the exercises you’ll see in this section, you’ll also have a walking assignment for the first two weeks. Walking is very important for all of us — especially seniors — because it has a wealth of health benefits like reduced risk of heart disease, better balance, weight loss, and much more. Please don’t neglect your walking assignments — they’re as important as the exercises! If you can, try completing this walking assignment every week, not just the first two.
Walking assignment: walk 60-120 minutes per week. This can be broken up into different days — in fact, we recommend it that way. Try walking 10-20 minutes a day to get to your goal time.