By TERRI BRYCE REEVES, EDITOR
With a New Year underway and America’s resolve to “get healthy and fit” in 2019, we journalists are tasked with trotting out the good ol’ “getin-shape” piece each January – and for a good reason.
There is mounting evidence that exercise can stave off chronic illnesses like heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, obesity, depression and dementia. Fitness activities have
also been shown to have a positive effect on the workings of our genes, the immune
system, repair mechanisms and other bodily functions. Not only will fitness improve quality of life, but it can extend it too.
Scientists say that those who are 65 today can expect to live about 13 more years
in good health – until age 78. But today’s active and fit 65-year-olds will (on average)
gain an additional six years of disability-free life expectancy.
So let’s break a sweat, burn some calories and bust a move. Let’s exercise like we want to live ‘til 99.
No more excuses
We all have competing interests in
our lives that can get in the way of
staying in shape. But let’s face it. Is
there anything more important than
The first step is to set aside time
to exercise. Start with a goal of 30
minutes per day. If you can’t manage
that, three 10-minute segments will do.
Try to workout first thing in the morning
before the days’ activities start piling up.
Strength in numbers
When it comes to hanging in there for the
long run, there is strength in numbers.
A walking group or pickleball partner can
help you stay motivated and accountable on
days when you feel like playing hooky.
Many senior health care plans offer the
free Silver Sneakers fitness program, where one can partake in classes like yoga, Zumba and water aerobics. These classes are a great way to meet new people, have fun and learn something new.
Four must-do types of exercise
Be sure to incorporate exercises that will improve endurance, strength, balance and
Endurance exercises keep your heart, lungs and circulatory system healthy. Brisk
walking, jogging, dancing, yard work, biking, swimming and tennis are all excellent ways to increase endurance.
The American Heart Association recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week. Start slowly and build up over time. Remember, it’s important to set realistic goals based on your health, age and abilities. Always get your health care professional’s approval before starting a new exercise routine.
Strength or resistance training builds muscles and healthy connective tissue, increases bone density, cuts the risk of injury, and helps ease arthritis pain – all which help us stay independent longer. Lift weights or use elastic bands or your own body weight to build
Balance exercises help prevent falls, improve posture and increase confidence. Tai Chi and
yoga are ideal practices to maintain and improve balance.
Activities like ice skating, paddle-boarding, running in the shallow end of a pool and regular walking will increase lower body strength and help reduce the likelihood of a spill.
Flexibility exercises like yoga or Pilates will improve joint mobility and posture. Basic body
stretches will also contribute to freedom of movement.
Stretching should only be done when the muscles are warm. Stretch just to the point of slight pain and hold for at least 10 seconds. Avoid sudden jerky movements which can result in tissue injury.
Set your fitness goals
Decide what kind of activities you are going to
pursue to improve your endurance, strength, balance and flexibility. Create a diary and chart your progress.
Set goals for one month, six months and a year; write them down and monitor your improvement. In just a few weeks, you may start to see and feel a difference.
Monitoring your caloric intake, eating a plant based or Mediterranean diet, reaching your ideal weight, and engaging in life with family and friends will also contribute to disability-free longevity.
The advantages of exercise are many: self-confidence, renewed energy, improved appearance, reduced stress, better-fitting clothes, more happiness and perhaps best of all, the satisfaction of knowing you are doing everything possible to stave off chronic illness and add quality years to your life.