11 Fitness Challenges for Older Adults
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11 Fitness Challenges for Older Adults
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Easy Does It

Judging from ads and magazines, you'd think that fitness is the realm of the young. Unfortunately, you'd be woefully incorrect — physical fitness is just as important for 67-year-olds as it is for the 27-year-olds. If you're not already living an active lifestyle, the path toward fitness may seem daunting, but, according to experts we consulted, it is nothing to stress about. "Rather than focusing on a specific benchmark, just focus on doing more than you have before," advises Ben Johnson, certified fitness coach and founder of BENTRAINED. Read on for 11 no-stress fitness challenges for older adults.

Note: Be sure to consult your healthcare professional before beginning any new fitness routine.

Related: 15 Activities Older Adults Can Adopt to Look and Feel Younger

10,000 Steps Per Day
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Take 10,000 Steps Per Day

An easy place to start? Lace up your shoes and walk! "Most adults are a far cry from 10K steps per day thanks to Henry Ford," Johnson says. "Unless you live in a walking-heavy place like New York City or already make a conscious effort to log your steps, 10,000 steps is a great goal for general activity. Simple, yet effective for general health and fitness." Consider using a fitness tracker to help you track your steps and meet (or beat) your goal each day.

Make It Count
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Push Yourself Further with Daily Activities

Along those lines, Sarah Elizondo, assistant studio manager at [solidcore] (yes, that's the name of the fitness company and not a typo) in New York, recommends getting in more steps through everyday activity. "Simple ways to get in extra steps is maybe park your car further from the door of the grocery store, take that extra walk (including the one back holding groceries!)," she recommends. "Take a walk around the block, if you have stairs in your house, climb up and down a few rounds maybe even skip some stairs." 

Related: 12 Ways to Work Out at Home and Stay Motivated

Don't Lift Heavy Weights After 40
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Incorporate Free Weights into Your Strength Training

It's all about the baby steps (and lifts). "You don't have to try to be a powerlifter, but strength does nothing but good things — especially as we age," Johnson says. "For one, it'll help maintain muscle mass, which is invaluable as we get older. It'll also help with bone density, which helps bolster us against osteoporosis. Plus, it'll help keep your body more physically capable of 'keeping up' with the toddlers and kiddos in the family this Thanksgiving." Consider starting with bodyweight workouts, as well as balance and stability exercises, before gradually incorporating free weights to your strength training.

Swimming Laps
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Swim Laps with a Partner

Swimming may be the activity we see older adults doing in every movie, but just because it's a trope doesn't mean it's a bad idea. "There really is something to be said about the joint-friendly nature of moving through water," says Johnson. "Swimming is a great way to be active with low risk. Any exercise has a bit of a risk/reward ratio. But swimming's is lopsided in favor of the reward. It'll help with cardiovascular health but keep your joints all kinds of happy. Even as much as 20 minutes can go a long way." Elizondo agrees, adding that it's "relaxing, and super joint friendly." To ensure that you're challenging yourself, look for swimming classes in your area or find a swimming buddy around the same skill level and set targets for each other.

Related: Amazing Indoor Pools in All 50 States

Practice Getting Up from the Floor
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Take the Stand-Up Challenge

As simple as it may sound, this one's important, Johnson says. "It almost sounds silly, I know. But it's a pretty big deal. People fall. And sometimes, those people can't get up. I'm not saying practicing getting down on the floor and back up is going to eradicate falls or related injury, but it'll definitely help." Beyond the risks of falling, a study published a few years back suggests that your ability to sit down on the ground from a standing position and get back up can indicate how long you might live. To improve your chances of living a long and healthy life — and increase your flexibility and strength — incorporate these stand-up challenges into your daily routine.

Or Even Just Getting Up from a Chair
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Or Start with a Chair Challenge

As with all fitness activities, there's no shame in starting where you're at. "If getting up from the floor seems daunting, start with a chair," recommends Johnson. He continues, "It's a similar sort of concept, just a simpler variation. All things fitness can always be regressed or progressed to meet individual need. The key is just being able to ease down into your chair and stand back up without using your hands to help. Now imagine being able to do that the rest of your life… Worth the practice, right? If you're looking to take things to the next level, consider trying a full-body chair challenge to engage your whole body.

Related: 15 Ways to Stop Being So Sedentary at the Office

APP-ly Yourself
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Get Motivated with a Couch to 5K Challenge

We use apps for just about everything these days, why not use one to get fit? Elizondo recommends an app called "From Couch to 5K." She explains that it helps "you track progress to get ready from being sedentary to run/walking a 5K!" An impressive feat indeed.

Dance Yourself Fit
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Sign Up for a Dance Class

There's no reason why fitness can't be fun. "Outings to go dance are wonderful," Elizondo says. "Dancing not only elevates your heart rate but helps with coordination and joint mobility, as well as gives you endorphins!" Win-win. Once you get comfortable and develop your dancing skills, try challenging yourself further by signing up for a dance competition for older adults.

Minute Bear Crawl
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Try the Minute Bear Crawl Challenge

Looking for something a little simpler? Try a bear crawl. "Feels a bit full circle, but crawling is a great exercise for adults," Johnson says. While it's not something most of us immediately think of when the word "fitness" comes up, "It's a basic movement pattern that most of us learn as infants, but can be surprisingly challenging for us adults," he continues. "I like having people bear crawl for one continuous minute without rest, going forward and in reverse. Try to keep things slow, controlled, and steady, moving opposite hand and foot simultaneously."

Related: 10 Indoor Workouts That Don't Require a Gym

Walking
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Work Toward a Quarter-Mile Jog

Running may sound intimidating, but like anything else, it's all about starting where you are. Johnson elaborates, "With so many people running 5 and 10Ks or half and full marathons these days, a quarter-mile hardly seems like anything at all. And, well, it's pretty short. But it's enough to help maintain bone density, which is particularly important as we age." Plus, he says, "Nobody wants to break a hip. Strong bones will help keep that from happening. And load-bearing exercise will help keep bones strong. Best part? You don't even need anything too crazy. A quarter-mile of light jogging can be enough." 

Once you're more comfortable with jogging, consider signing up for an upcoming fun run/walk. That way you'll give yourself something to work toward and make the challenge more fun.

Make It a Team Effort
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Make It a Team Challenge

While you're at it, get your friends and family involved. Doing things as a team makes fitness fun and doable. "It can be fun to get a group together to run/walk for a good cause," says Elizondo, both to "raise money together and hold each other accountable." Or, as a group, "pick a challenging hiking trail," both for fun and for safety.