It’s not easy to stay active as we age, but research continues to show that exercise and physical activity are essential to maintaining good, long-term health, and especially later in life.
No one has the power to stop the aging process, but regular exercise and an overall healthy lifestyle can certainly help to slow it. Plus, moving more protects your bones, muscle mass, joint health and mobility, which all naturally tend to diminish as we grow older.
Of course, starting sooner is always better than later, but really, any time is good time to begin incorporating more exercise in your life. Just make sure to get the go-ahead from your doctor before beginning any new fitness regimen.
Once, you’ve got the OK, the following tips from Cris Dobrosielski, senior consultant for the American Council on Exercise (ACE), an ACE certified personal trainer and author of “Going the Distance,” will help you get started easily and keep you moving for many years to come.
1. Do what you love, love what you do: Now you’re the boss! You get to pick how you spend your time and which activities you’ll do. Whether it’s hiking, gardening, golfing, water aerobics, ceramics or ballroom dance, spending your time doing things that stoke your spirit, is a recipe for increased energy, vitality and happiness.
2. Schedule fitness and movement activities into your day and stick to the plan: One challenge that many seniors are faced with is that they have a tremendous amount of free time. As energy wanes throughout the day, so does the likelihood of getting around to doing something healthy. Try exercising early in the day to avoid missing a workout all together.
3. Be of service: Find organizations or groups in your community that you value and share some of your time with them regularly.
4. Don’t do it alone: One of the dangers many seniors face is the tendency to isolate. Joining a local gym, like a YMCA, where you can connect with peers while getting exercise has the benefit of making the workout fun, adds accountability and a very positive social component.
5. Pump it up: Resistance training has multiple benefits for people of all ages. Burning calories, strengthening muscles, fortifying connective tissue and increasing bone density are just a few of the biggies. This is an area where it would be well worth seeking out an ACE-certified personal trainer or coach to build a routine that works for your body, with your goals in mind.
6. Eat better, not perfectly: Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed. That said, attentiveness to making even small improvements in nutritional choices can lead to improved energy levels, increased comfort during exercise and social activities, and a potential reduction in the use of prescription medications, which often have negative side effects. Lowering intake of sugar, saturated fat and sodium just to name just a few, can really improve one’s health and disposition.
7. Move it or lose it: Include some sort of mobility activity in your day. This can be a dedicated “Healthy Back” class, yoga, Pilates or a short flexibility routine done regularly at the house each day. It’s also important to include some gentle static stretching and some light dynamic stretching to help limber up your body and allow you the freedom of movement for all of life’s adventures that you like to embrace.