Topics on Aging

By Juan Gallo

What’s the best way for seniors to stay active?

October 10, 2023

seniors staying active

At the beginning of my CrossFit journey, I was blown away by Linda, who’s 72, and her workout friends from church.

I consider myself fairly fit. For most of my life, I’ve maintained some kind of workout routine. I used to enjoy running, until a herniated disc robbed me of that activity. 

However, when I first visited a CrossFit gym three years ago, all I could think was: “This is nuts.”

It looked like every person there was training for a war. 

If you aren’t familiar with CrossFit, it’s a strength and conditioning program. The daily workouts are high intensity and constantly changing. 

What I didn’t know — as I first watched the men and women in that gym exhibiting an intimidating level of strength — was that every workout can be modified to any fitness level. 

CrossFit is designed to make everyone stronger. Even women in their 70s like Linda. 

The inspiration

One of the most challenging CrossFit workouts is called The Murph. It’s named after Navy SEAL Lt. Michael Murphy who lost his life in combat in Afghanistan. 

It’s a workout only Navy SEALs would come up with. 

It starts with a one-mile run. 

Followed by 100 pull-ups. Then 200 push-ups. Then 300 squats. 

Topped off by another one-mile run. 

Most CrossFit classes are an hour. But on the day we do the Murph, you sign up for an hour and a half. 

Of course, there are plenty of modifications. I don’t run, so I do a bike ride instead. 

Not too many people can do 100 pull-ups, even at a CrossFit gym. So they’ll modify that part by using a box or jumping. 

Even with the modifications, I was kinda scared to tackle the whole thing for the first time. I was still early in my CrossFit journey and wasn’t sure I could do it. 

Linda was at the gym that day and spoke up: “Why don’t we do the half Murph instead?”

I was immediately impressed that this woman was considering even half of the insane workout. 

I finished the half Murph pretty fast — compared to the others at the gym who were doing twice as many reps. 

The whole time, Linda was right there next to me, pumping a tremendous amount of energy into the workout. 

And it wasn’t just her. A couple of older ladies I knew from church were tackling the challenge, too. 

You can choose whether to be impressed by them or underwhelmed by my level of fitness. 

The goal

I don’t tell you this story to promote CrossFit. I don’t even mean to suggest that your challenge has to be overwhelming every day. 

The goal is to keep moving, especially as we age. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended activity for adults older than 65 is a mix of aerobic activity, movement that strengthens muscles, and activities that improve balance. 

For aerobic activity, the Center suggests 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise per week, which could mean a brisk walk 30-minute five days a week. Alternatively, seniors could try something vigorous like hiking, jogging, or running for 75 minutes per week. 

Strength training should happen twice a week. Lifting light weights, like cans of food, is enough to keep the muscles active. 

Those recommendations are the baseline to keep healthy. If you’re as brave and as dedicated as my friend Linda, your body is capable of so much more. 

We were created to keep moving. I’m always impressed when I visit other countries and see how active their older people are. 

Unfortunately, in the United States, we have a lot of jobs that keep us behind a desk without much movement at all. We’ve talked before about how the tyranny of the urgent creates a culture of hustle that isn’t inherently physical.

That doesn’t translate well into retirement. If you aren’t intentional, you can find yourself on the couch, flipping through channels and unmotivated to move. 

The challenge

It’s hard. I know. I love CrossFit, but it’s a mental struggle every time I get up early to work out. I know I have 60 minutes of physical exertion ahead of me, and it’s not going to be pretty. 

We do it because the habit of constant movement is vital to a healthy life. 

If you’ve read this far, I pray you take this blog as a challenge. I know lots of people struggle with physical difficulties that make movement tough. 

Just remember: The goal is not to keep up with Linda in a half Murph. 

Your only competition is yourself. So modify the activity to your fitness level. 

The goal is to keep moving — a little more each day — to stay active and strong. 

Read more about:
Juan Gallo
Juan Gallo is the CEO of Heart2Heart Outreach, where he oversees the mobilization of volunteers to provide hope, share love and restore purpose to the lives of the aging population across South Florida.

He also serves as a local pastor and as an adjunct professor at Trinity International University, where he is teaching a course on diversity and aging. Juan has a master’s degree in counseling and psychology and is a licensed mental health counselor intern.


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Juan Gallo

This blog is a frank conversation about what it means to age in our society.

I want us to consider what a wider range of diverse experiences when we talk about aging. I want to reflect on how we, as a community, want our neighbors and our mothers and fathers and our grandparents to live out their latter decades of life. I want us to consider each one of their voices as we strive to meet their needs.

Join me for weekly discussions about what it means to be a senior in South Florida and how we can and should respond to the growing needs of the aging population.

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