Walking Exercise and Fitness for the Elderly (or near Elderly)

I just finished watching our video on Walking Exercise and Fitness for the Elderly (or near Elderly). If you have not looked at that video yet, please do so. Go to: 

Walking Exercise and Fitness for the Elderly Video

Did you watch it? Great! Welcome back. I am going to add a few comments, but first let me tell you about, ‘Super Max’.

I once worked with a patient, let’s call him ‘Max. Max was in his mid sixties. Mid-sixty is not really old, but it is starting to approach ‘old’. Anyway, Max was frustrated. It seemed that he could not walk much longer than 60 seconds without becoming tired. In fact, it was all he could do to walk to his mailbox at the end of his driveway, rest a minute, and then walk back to his house. After that he was beat.

Max was concerned (scared really) that he was only going to get weaker as he got older. By the time he got to age seventy he might not be able to walk at all. What was especially frustrating was that Max could not exercise to get stronger. After a minute or two of activity he was too tired to do anything and needed to rest. How could he ever get stronger if he could not exercise? 

The solution was simple really. I asked Max if he had a chair on his porch. He said that he did. “Great!” I told him. “Now what I want you to do is walk down to your mailbox, rest a minute, then walk back to the chair on your porch. Rest as long as you need to rest, then walk to the mailbox again, and again.” I gave Max a goal of 20 to 30 minutes of total time walking and resting. I did not care how many times he walked. Max just had to commit to an exercise program of 20 to 30 minutes a day. 

The nice thing about this advice was that Max took it to heart almost before I finished talking. I could see a light in his eyes click on as he realized that, indeed he could exercise to get stronger. The next time Max came to PT, I think it was 3 days later, he was as excited as any patient I have treated. Not only could he walk to his mailbox, but he could walk to the neighbor’s mailbox and back. Max had effectively doubled his total walking distance in just 3 days. 

After his second visit, I scheduled Max to come to PT one time a week for four weeks. Mostly we just worked on instructions in how to build endurance, balance and coordination and what to do after PT was finished. By the end of a month Max was able to walk around the block he lived on, which by his estimate took fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes! Wow! A man who four weeks earlier could not walk to his mailbox without getting winded was now walking more than a quarter of a mile. He was no longer Max. He was Super Max. 


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The above story is true. Only the name has been changed to protect Max’ identity. Max taught me an important lesson. Many people who are starting to lose a degree of physical fitness do not really know how to exercise to get it back.  I have created this video to honor and to thank Max for his lesson. I want to let everyone know that all they need to do to get stronger is commit to an exercise program. Ideally the program should be 20 to 30 minutes a day, three to seven days a week. However, some people may need to exercise for shorter periods of time. Exercise does not have to be extremely difficult. In fact, I prefer that it is easy. If an exercise is easy, people will do it.

  • Most people will not progress as fast as Max did. That is OK. I usually expect slower results. Do not let slow progress stop you from exercising.
  • I usually encourage people to do about 25 repetitions of every exercise, and then to repeat 2 sets of each exercise a day. If 25 repetitions is too many, then do 20, or 15 or 10, or 5. Pick whatever number falls within your comfort zone.
  • There are two secrets to rehabilitation exercise: 1) The more you exercise, the faster you will get better. 2) Always be comfortable when you exercise. Do not exercise if it hurts a lot, or it is too hard, or it is too tiring. You can injure yourself. Always exercise within a safe level of comfort. If you are not sure what that level is, ask your doctor if you can see a physical therapist for advice.
  • If you cannot get out to exercise, find a way to do these exercises in your home or apartment. Walk laps in a hall way. March in place for as long as you can while you are watching TV. There are many ways to modify this program so it fits your lifestyle. Do not look for excuses about why you cannot exercise. Try to find ways to help exercise become a daily habit.
  • If you have an aging parent who needs to exercise more, every time you visit, try to take them to a mall or a park for an outing. During your visit make sure they get several short walks in. You won’t really be a PT, but close enough for your mom or dad. What a wonderful way to show how much you care.

Caution: In my video, when I did my standing exercises, I used a fairly unstable chair for balance. I do not have a balance problem, so an unstable chair worked well for me. If you have a balance problem, leaning on a chair may be risky. Use something secure for balance: a deck railing, a car, or even, your house.

I hope you have enjoyed our post on Walking Exercise and Fitness for the Elderly. Please send me any questions or comments you may have so I can be sure that I am helping you succeed. Thank-you


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