Getting older seems to happen without a lot of extra effort. But maintaining the fitness level which allows a high quality of life requires exercise, regardless of your age.
Health advisors suggest you exercise for a number of health-related reasons before reaching the golden years. Those who exercise may feel better and be able to function at a higher capacity. Young people who don’t exercise don’t often see their quality of life severely affected. But as we age, exercise can no longer be an elective. You must exercise to maintain your level of health. Consider these points:
Physical activity improves circulation to the brain, and can make your mind work better and slow memory loss.
Movement can counteract lethargy. If you exercise, you won’t feel as tired.
According to a number of studies, regular exercise can postpone admittance to a nursing home by 10 years or more.
A decline in your ability to do things may be caused by disuse, not disease.
Physical activity is a great way to become involved in the social activities of the community.
Exercise promotes sounder sleep and a better appetite. It improves bowel function. Heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol and body fat are all lowered with a regular exercise program.
People who are suffering from disease while dealing with the complications of aging must exercise. Diabetes, obesity, arthritis, high blood pressure, lung disease, and osteoporosis are just a few conditions that often improve with a regular exercise program.
The October 1994 Physician and Sportsmedicine Journal published an easy exercise program for older people.
Following is a summary of the Daily Activity Workout:
Walk and stroll
Regular walking is the backbone of any exercise program. Walk as often as you can, daily if possible, and aim for at least 30 minutes a day. If you cannot do this all at once, break it into shorter walks, but build up to 30 minutes. Walk at a brisk but comfortable pace at which you can talk easily.
Lift and carry
Practice lifting and carrying a package that requires two hands. With your back straight, lift the package from a waist-high table. Hold the package at chest level with your elbows at 90-degree angles. Carry it awhile and place it elsewhere in your home on another waist-high table - but don’t go up and down stairs with it. Try to do this several times a day. Start with a few books in a box, and add books as you feel comfortable and as you build strength.
Try to climb at least a few flights of stairs a day. Use the hand rails as much as needed, but try to gradually rely on them only for balance. Don’t try for speed - the goal is stronger leg muscles for climbing stairs with ease.
Sit in a firm chair that has sturdy arm rests. Grasp the armrests and push off with your arms and legs to a standing position. Slowly lower to a sitting position, then push up again. Repeat as tolerated.
Upper-body strengthening with weights
You can lift weights with everyday items such as soup cans or light dumbbells available at athletic stores. Start with a weight you can comfortably lift 10 times. Add one lift each day until you reach 25. Then try a slightly heavier weight at 10 repetitions and repeat the cycle.
Military press (with weights)
Sit on a straight-backed chair with your back straight against the backrest. Push weights from shoulder height to overhead until your elbows are straight. Lower the weights back to shoulder level, then repeat.
Stand against a wall. Hold weights with your arms fully lowered. Without moving your back, bend your elbows to bring the weights to shoulder height. Lower slowly and repeat.
To strengthen your chest muscles while standing or sitting, press your palms together in front of your chest, hold a few seconds, then relax and repeat.
Lock fingers in front of your chest and pull in opposite directions. Hold a few seconds, then relax and repeat. This exercise strengthens upper-back muscles.
To stretch your chest and shoulder muscles, interlace your fingers behind your buttocks with your elbows bent. Slowly straighten your arms. Hold for 30 seconds.
To stretch the muscles at the back of your thigh, sit in a chair with your back straight. Place your left leg on another chair in front of you. Place both hands just above your left knee and bend forward from your hips, not your waist (keep your back straight.) Slide your hands toward your foot until you feel a gentle stretch. Hold for 30 seconds, switch legs, and repeat.
Face a wall at arm’s length, and put both hands on the wall. Place your right foot farther from the wall than your left. Bend your left leg while keeping your right leg straight and your right heel firmly on the floor. With a straight back, move your hips toward the wall until you feel a nice stretch in your calf. Hold for 30 seconds, switch legs, and repeat.
This sidebar ran with story: DON KARDONG’S TIPS See the doctor: If you’re past age 40 and haven’t been physically active for a while, it’s best to check with your family physician before starting running or any vigorous exercise program. Set a goal: Those interested in cardiovascular fitness should set a goal of 30 minutes of jogging or running, four times a week. That amount will give a great fitness return with little risk of injury. Keep it natural: To help improve running form as you get into shape, concentrate on efficiency and relaxation. Eliminate any unnatural movements of the head, shoulders and arms. Keep your hands loose, without clenching your fists, and avoid gritting your teeth. Give yourself time: You need to give your body time to adjust to running, so avoid big increases in training mileage from one week to the next. To avoid exhaustion and/or injuries, keep increases in mileage below 10 percent per week. Monitor the pain: Most minor injuries go away in a few days. If aches and pains persist, though, ease up on your training or take and extra rest day or two. Applying ice can also help heal many pains and strains. If pain continues, contact someone trained in the diagnosis and treatment of running injuries. Try walking: Walking can be a great substitute for running, especially if you find jogging too difficult. For a good aerobic benefit, use the same rule that runners use: walk briskly so that your breathing and heartrate increase significantly, but not so quickly that you can’t talk while you walk.