Getting older, feeling better
May 6, 1999
(WebMD) -- Last month, the British Journal of Sports Medicine published a report outlining the importance of exercise for senior citizens. Older people who incorporate exercise into their daily routine have better balance and are less likely to fall (the main cause of accidental death in the elderly) than those who don't exercise, according to the report. It's really never too late to start exercising!
It's important to treat your body well. Let's face it -- it's the only one you've got! If you're not exercising, you're losing muscle, which results not only in fat gain, but could also lead to osteoporosis, heart disease or back pain. According to AgeNet, an information and referral network for seniors, "Taking a brisk walk regularly can help lower your risk of health problems like heart disease or depression. Climbing stairs, calisthenics or housework can increase your strength, stamina and self-confidence." So get out there and get your body moving. There's no reason you can't look forward to better, healthier years.
A physician knows exactly how the body works, and how yours might respond to different types of physical activity. It's a good idea to have your doctor give you a check-up before beginning any exercise program, so that he or she can give you exercise tips that may benefit you -- and help you make sure not to overdo it.
An exercise program doesn't necessarily mean going to the gym, taking dance classes or learning yoga, though it can be all of these and more. There are lots of things you can do for great exercise around the house, the yard or the neighborhood. The key is to make a consistent practice of whatever you choose to do.
You may think that if you're not going to do a vigorous, strenuous workout every day, then why bother? Well, you should bother, because every little bit counts. Even if it's been a long time since you last ventured out for a jog, a brisk walk may be just what your body is craving. This pace will increase circulation of blood and oxygen to important (and perhaps long-neglected) areas of the body.
Make a realistic schedule that you can stick to. There's nothing worse to keep you from exercising than a schedule that seems tailor-made for Arnold Schwarzenegger. Try scheduling the exercise around other things you like to do. You can use exercise as an incentive to reward yourself later on -- after you walk the local mile, come home and plant a few new flowers in the garden.
Don't make excuses to yourself. Mowing the lawn, washing the dishes or feeding the cats all can wait until after you've exercised.
The American Council on Exercise recommends that you find a friend with whom you can exercise. There's nothing like having someone there, even at the other end of the telephone line, to encourage you to stay active. And on the days that you don't really feel up to exercising, that friend will be able to help get you started. It can be a mutual arrangement -- there may be days that your buddy doesn't have that spark, and you can help.
Exercise doesn't have to be a chore. Once you get started, you'll probably find your body responding in unexpected ways. You may notice that your sense of overall well-being is enhanced, and that exercising actually gives you more energy. So go ahead, get started! Talk to your doctor soon. A healthier body and soul is one of the best gifts you can give yourself.
Copyright 1999 by WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.
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