It’s Never too Late to Start Exercising
Exercise is beneficial regardless of age. We all know the general benefits – heart health, joint flexibility, muscle strength – but these and other reasons become even more important as we get older. Even if you are in your 70’s or 80’s, it is never too late to start (with your physician’s approval, of course).As with any exercise or new diet regimen, consult your physician before beginning a new exercise endeavor.
The many benefits of regular exercise
Lack of physical activity as you age is a leading cause of loss of strength and stamina. According to the CDC, inactivity increases with age, and by age 75 roughly one in three men and one in two women do not engage in any physical activity.
However, you can turn this around. Here are some great benefits of physical activity for aging adults from the Surgeon General:
- Helps maintain the ability to live independently and reduces the risk of falling and fracturing bones.
- Reduces the risk of dying from coronary heart disease and of developing high blood pressure, colon cancer, and diabetes.
- Can help reduce blood pressure in some people with hypertension.
- Helps people with chronic, disabling conditions improve their stamina and muscle strength.
- Reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression and fosters improvements in mood and feelings of well-being.
- Slows cognitive decline, keeping minds sharper for longer
- Helps maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints.
- Helps control joint swelling and pain associated with arthritis.
How to Stay Active
Baby boomers – those over 50 – are the fastest-growing segment of the fitness population. Experts say people simply want to be active in their later years, realizing that being fit is the key to maintaining a high-quality lifestyle.
Colin Milner, CEO of the International Council on Active Aging, said, “A lot of the problems we used to think of as being related to aging, we now know are related to disuse of the body, and boomers have finally begun to realize ‘Hey, we can do something about that.'”
How can you get and stay fit? One option is to join the rest of your generation who are becoming gym members by leaps and bounds. Specialty gyms aimed at targeted populations, such as Curves for women and Nifty After Fifty for all older adults, have become increasingly popular. These gyms aren’t for the typical gym-rats you might find at a recreational gym. Most include more senior-friendly offerings, like yoga, tai chi and Pilates classes along with weight training and treadmills. Nifty After Fifty even has a driving simulator to help keep members’ skills from deteriorating. And Curves offers woman-friendly circuit training as well as cardio, boxing, core and balancing classes.
If you prefer to exercise at home or in the great outdoors, fitness experts recommend starting with a fitness program that combines cardio, strength training and balance. Get a pedometer and track the number of steps you take each day. The goal is at least 10,000 steps every day, but work up slowly – no need to jump from 1,000 to 10,000 overnight. Take the stairs, which can burn calories, and build strength and balance.
When sitting at in a chair, at the table or a desk, try this exercise to strengthen your core. Sit near the edge of the chair, sitting tall with chest up and shoulders back. Lean back from the hips until your shoulders touch the back of the chair and then come back up. Did you feel your stomach muscles engage? Then you did it correctly! This is a safe way to exercise your core while being mindful of your spine.
According to a WebMD article on senior fitness, squatting can strengthen your leg muscles, which in turn can help you stave off the need for a cane, walker or wheelchair. Stand straight and tall with feet shoulder-width apart, toes facing forward. First, drop your hips back and stick out your bottom, then bend the knees like you’re sitting. Make sure you can see your toes over your knees to protect the knees and lower back.
Of course it is very important to place safety first, especially if you have never exercised or it’s been a while, or you are recovering from an injury. Always check with your doctors before starting any new exercise program.
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