Healthy Aging Part 1: Physical Fitness

10 tips to getting in shape and staying in shape as the years go by

  1. Do something- If you are not currently involved in regular physical activity, then just do something.  Countless studies have shown that many health risks including those of heart disease are greatly decreased when comparing an inactive or sedentary individual with someone who does low to moderately-intense activities.   Recommendations from the Surgeon General state that only 30 minutes on most days of the week greatly reduce numerous health risks. So…no matter what you do- do something!
  2. Do something you love- If you don’t love running, don’t do it.  If you can’t stand the smell of a gym, don’t go.  If you feel like a hamster in a cage when you’re on a treadmill, walk outside.  In other words, do what you love doing because you will be much more likely to keep doing it and actually have a good time.
  3. Do something you can keep doing- If in your glory days you were a football player or the high school soccer star, try to find something that you will be able to do as your body ages. Unfortunately, there are quite a few activities that cause a lot of strain on the body and may not be the best method of physical activity.  Try something new like tennis, golf, or swimming.  They are great ways to stay active for many, many years.
  4. Do something you can do with your partner- Physical activity is always more fun with a friend!  If you can spend the quality time with your partner while being physically active, you will both benefit much more.  If you have different taste in activities, give your partner’s favorite activities a try.  Look for new activities you both enjoy. It’s never too late to learn new tricks! If you don’t have a partner, invite a friend or attend a class to meet people interested in common activities.
  5. Do something you can do by yourself- There may be times when your partner is not available to do activities, don’t let those times keep you from being active too.  So, if your regular outing is a tennis match, find an alternate activity you enjoy doing on your own.  There is joy found in solitude as well.
  6. Do a variety of activities- Stay active by getting involved in many different kinds of activities. Variety is the spice of life.  Try new things and do various levels of intensity.  Push yourself on some days, relax a little more on others, but always do something!
  7. Incorporate strength training- Muscle loss is just a part of getting older.  As we age, we lose muscle mass.  However, you do not have to be the old man or woman confined to a wheel chair or one who needs help to standing up out of a chair.  Regular strength training can help slow down or even stop muscle loss.  It is never too late to learn about strength training.  If you have not ever participated in a strength training program, or if it has been a long time, consult with a certified personal trainer to be sure you use correct technique and form.  They will also be able to help you know how much resistance to use, amount of repetitions, and how often to incorporate strength training in your exercise routine.
  8. Raise your heart rate in a healthy way- Always consult with your doctor before beginning a regular exercise routine.  Talk to you doctor about your current health status and if you have any limitations to your workout.  If you are free from limitations, don’t be afraid to push yourself above your normal level of comfort.  Your heart is a muscle and needs to be pushed beyond its comfort level in order to get stronger.  See how you can increase the intensity of your workout in a healthy, helpful way.
  9. Do functional exercises- As we age and begin to lose muscle mass, other aspects such as agility, speed, and balance may begin to falter as well.  Involving functional exercises into your routine can be a great way to slow or prevent those losses.  An example of a functional exercise is a squat.  Every time you stand up out of a chair, you do a squat with your body weight.  If you perform squats on a regular basis in your routine, the major muscles in your lower body will maintain enough strength to consistently allow for this everyday movement.
  10. Do something- Just to reiterate, no matter what you do, do something!  Regular physical activity is a crucial part of healthy aging.  You will have more joy and healthy years added to your life when you stay physically active.