Your 5 Biggest Exercise Fears—Quashed!

By Nadia Murdock |

Open the door to a gym, and you’re also opening the door to a healthier, happier life. You can do this!

SilverSneakers Fears

Starting anything new can be intimidating. Joining a fitness facility or exercise class is no exception, especially if you’ve never been much of a gym-goer.

Many older adults find themselves in this quandary after their physician gives them a choice: exercise or illness. Everyone knows exercise is the right answer, but the first step sometimes feels like it’s over the Grand Canyon.

What are you afraid of? We asked a few SilverSneakers instructors about common fitness fears they encounter—and how others have conquered them and reaped the many rewards of exercise.

Fear #1: “I’ll Hurt Myself”

Getting injured or aggravating an existing condition is one of the most common fears among older adults, says Yvonne Chung, a SilverSneakers instructor at 24 Hour Fitness in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. “This often holds people back from getting all the benefits from an exercise,” she says, “or even exercising at all.”

Conquer it: Tame this fear by taking it slow and stopping if you feel pain, Chung says. And talk to your instructors—they’re there to help. If an exercise isn’t right for you, they can advise easier versions (called regressions) or alternate exercises.

Exercising on your own? Follow these tips to avoid injuries.

Fear #2: “It Looks Too Hard”

Some older adults have painful ailments that make common everyday tasks difficult. “Arthritis or other joint issues can make traditional exercise very difficult,” says Phil Nisen, a SilverSneakers instructor at 24 Hour Fitness in Wayne, New Jersey. That includes even simple bodyweight movements, such as stretching.

Conquer it: Think sea, not land. “Try an aqua class,” says Nisen. “Many of my clients feel invigorated using the pool for exercise. I’ve seen many examples of improved flexibility and general quality of life. Some will then try a SilverSneakers land program and be successful.”

And if you have recurring or chronic pain, don’t ignore it. There’s usually a reason for pain—and a solution.

Fear #3: “I Don’t Know What to Do”

If you’ve never been to a gym, it can be intimidating no matter your age. Even joining a group class like SilverSneakers can seem daunting. Others know the program and one another. You feel like the new kid at school.

Conquer it: Start with a tour or personal training session. A member of the staff will be happy to show you the ropes (figuratively and literally), introduce you to other trainers and a few regulars, and answer your questions. They can also recommend specific exercises or classes for you. Plus, check out these beginner’s guides to the gym and great exercises for older adults.

And with SilverSneakers classes, you never have to worry about being a newbie, Nisen says. All the classes are designed to be interactive, friendly, and fun. Most likely, you’ll walk out of the first class with a few new friends.

Fear #4: “I’ll Never Stick With It”

People quit their exercise programs for a lot of reasons: It takes up too much time, it’s too expensive, they’re not seeing results, they lose their motivation.

Conquer it: SilverSneakers classes are designed to overcome every one of those pain points. The social aspects of group classes have huge benefits: You’re less likely to skip a class if you know others are counting on you to be there. “I try to create an atmosphere that’s fun but challenging,” says Nisen. “That gives people something to look forward to each time and ensures they see the results they want.”

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If you do miss a few days, weeks, or even months of exercise, the great news is there are lots of ways to ease back into regular movement. Stretching or walking even a few minutes a day can help. Or maybe it’s time to try a new activity that might be a better fit. Check out these terrific fitness ideas.

Fear #5: “I’m Out of Shape and Embarrassed to Exercise in Front of Others”

Sadly, the people who need a gym the most are the least likely to join, says Chung. But those who work past this fear are grateful they did. “I have an 80-year-old client who had suffered from leg swelling and back pain for many years,” she says. “Since joining my classes, she has more energy, endurance, and flexibility, and she’s overcome her depression.” Talk about the power of exercise!

Conquer it: The gym is for everyone, and it’s never too late to get started. “Don’t talk yourself out of getting in shape due to age, injury, or physical restrictions,” Chung says. “The key is finding the right routine for you.”

Need a little more inspiration? SilverSneakers includes access to gym equipment as well as group classes, so you can get fit however you’re most comfortable. Even better, it comes free with many qualifying health plans. Check your eligibility today.

What are you waiting for? A healthier, happier you is only a small step away.

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SilverSneakers gives you free, unlimited access to more than 15,000 gyms and fitness centers across the nation, plus classes and tools designed to keep older adults strong and independent. Check your eligibility instantly here.

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