Olney Hamilton offers a few tips on getting back in the gym

Losing weight to ring in the New Year has become a tradition in America, but Olney Hamilton Hospital Health and Wellness Center Fitness Specialist Shelley Reed believes older citizens may want to take a few precautions before hitting the weights.

Whether part of a New Year's resolution or simply shedding a few pounds after a month of ingesting sugary, holiday foods, Reed said the rehabilitation center has experienced a slight uptick in clientele.

"So far, we've added 15 members since January 1. A lot of them were starting back up and starting over," Reed said. 

For those returning to an active lifestyle, Reed had a few ideas for avoiding undue soreness and injury.

"You will be sore, but the best thing to do is to start off nice and easy and gradually work your way up," Reed said. "You can start off lifting weights, just do it with light weights. Light weights and more reps gets your muscles used to moving, then you gradually increase."

Reed recommended a pre-workout warmup, which involves simple stretching and a few laps around the gym. 

"We do not recommend the older clients get on the treadmill because it hurts their joints," Reed said. "... We have a walking track and it's less evasive than a treadmill. It's better than walking outside because there are no potholes so it's soft and easy on your joints."

While the rehabilitation center in Olney may feature state-of-the-art equipment, Reed said many gyms feature workout machines designed for old clients such as a New Step, which she described as seated version of an elliptical machine. She recommended it because of its full-body benefits and because it's easy on joints.

"It's not as big on the cardio," Reed said. "With an elliptical, you get out of breath really easy ... It works out the arms and legs. With the elderly, we do not have them lift as many weights because they can get injured if they are not using the right form. We have to watch them because they may be using the wrong weight or too much weight and that is how you get injured."

Although she could not speak for other wellness facilities, Reed said Olney Hamilton has staff members that can assist in teaching clients proper form and the right weights to gradually build up to their clients' health goals. If free weights are not an option, especially for those with back or knee issues, then she recommends using an arm machine.

"We have arm bikes, which we use a lot for cardiac rehab," Reed said. "You would not think pedaling with your arms would get your heart rate up, but it does. We have a lot of people that have knee problems and walking or riding a bike may strain their knees, but they need cardio to help their heart." 

Reed also recommended using elliptical machines, which she said is easier than using a treadmill because of its gliding motion, and stationary bikes are a great option as well. She later added those with previous health issues should consult their physician before engaging in any rigorous activity. 

Although she greatly encourages anyone to come to the rehabilitation center to begin their path toward a healthy lifestyle, she said those confined to their homes can use simple table chair to get in a workout.

"You can do anything with a chair, as long as you are moving your body," Reed said. "You can do marches, side steps, leg lifts and leg raises. There are so many exercises on the Internet that yo can do at home without actually having to come to the gym."