Writing this column connects me with many interesting people. Some really enjoy the information I provide and others glance at the information and do not see how it would ever relate to them. Recently, I have had a number of older folks tell me that they are too old for exercise or health issues keep them from getting up and about.
Both concerns are frankly, in my world, nonsense. You're never too old to have some level of activity and as I have stated in the past, humans are designed to keep moving. Sedentary behavior is a killer - with more and more research showing it is a much bigger concern than we think.
No matter if you are older than 50 or older than 80, it truly is never too late to start exercising. For elderly adults who exercise twice a week or more, study after study shows significant improvement of muscle tone, strength, flexibility, balance and mobility. All these aspects make for a much better quality of life as we age. For example, taking a short walk or a long stroll daily can improve your health.
Many older folks think exercise and working out are only for young people. In fact, the people who need exercise the most are those of us who are aging and the elderly.
It is estimated that more than half our elderly population in the United States describe themselves as inactive. These statistics are reflected in growing health care costs and an epidemic of osteoporosis, Type 2 diabetes and degenerative autoimmune diseases. Staying active, building up your strength, balance and mobility is a simple way to be proactive and avoid many of these health issues.
As I observe older people and get into the community and talk with them, I also see example after example of these folks placing fitness activities as a priority - and their health shows it. The number of these folks staying fit and active is relatively small. According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 12 percent of people ages 65-75 and 10 percent of people age 75 and older follow the recommended guideline for strength training.
If you are someone who is not active and would like to jump-start a wellness program that gets you up and moving, here's a great guideline to follow:
* If you have not had a complete physical and medical examination recently, see your doctor before you start any fitness or exercise program. You need to be aware of your current health status and any health risks.
* Start slow - a steady pace wins the race. Keep it simple and include one of these programs along with walking: Low-impact aerobics, balance exercises, working with a personal trainer, tai chi, self-paced walking, using low-impact elastic tubing or ankle weights. You could also join low-impact 15-minute programs. All are very effective.
* Walking is by far one of the most important things you can do on a daily basis. Short walks are important and as you build up endurance, walk a little farther each week.
* Strength training to slow the process of muscular loss. After age 30, your body loses muscle mass fairly quickly. You can use very lightweight dumbbells and increase weight as you go. As little as 1 day a week of resistance training also improves overall strength and agility.
* Flexibility exercises also promote healthy muscle growth while reducing stiffness and loss of balance. Flexibility training is one of the most effective ways to increase your mobility and protect you from falls.
Other areas to be mindful of when you start a wellness program:
* Be sure to warm up at least 10 minutes before exercise and cool down for at least 10 minutes after exercise.
* Always stop a workout if you feel pain in your joints, are lightheaded, or cannot catch your breath. You should feel soreness as you get started, but as time goes on that will be less and less.
* Whether you're walking, lifting weights or doing any related movements, you need to be aware of your posture during all exercises.
* Stay relaxed when exercising. Injuries can happen quickly when you're tensed up, over-gripping weights or forcing your body into uncomfortable movements.
* Work with a partner or use a chair to balance yourself. Stay in reach of a solid surface to hold if you get lightheaded or overdo an exercise. Falling can be a huge setback to your wellness program.
There is no doubt that people of all ages who do moderate exercises often see many positive health benefits. As mentioned, studies have consistently shown that even light and moderate exercise improves flexibility, mobility and overall quality of life.
A recognized health and wellness presenter, fitness trainer and now primal health coach in the Inland Northwest. Now in his eighth year of bringing health and wellness through his writing, teaching and coaching, Judd delivers his well-rounded message of mindfulness, nutrition and fitness to readers and clients alike.