Staying physically active becomes more important as you get older as it’s the key to longevity and, more importantly, a happier life.
When you get moving, you boost your energy levels, maintain independence, keep a healthy weight, lower your risk of heart disease, ward off depression symptoms, improve coordination, and manage pain more effectively than if you are sedentary.
An inactive lifestyle can cause adults to lose strength, balance, flexibility and endurance, all areas that are important for staying healthy and remaining independent. When you make physical exercise a regular part of life, get ready to reap the benefits.
Even if the gym isn’t your thing or have never really been interested in exercising, there are plenty of ways to stay fit and active as you grow older. Here are a few simple and fun ways to get in shape and improve your overall health:
One Step at a Time
Something as simple as walking may not seem like a great workout, but there are many health benefits to walking 30 minutes a day five days a week. Walking helps to prevent bone loss, strengthen muscles, promote weight loss, improve circulation, and increase balance and stability, to name a few.
If it’s been a long time since you’ve exercised, start slowly, work up to 30 minutes a day and get in 100 steps per minute. Even if you can’t walk without the assistance of a cane or walker, don’t let that stop you from getting out there. In fact, it takes a load off your joints and you may even see improvement in your balance. Sometimes just getting out the door is the hardest part.
How to get started:
- Recruit a friend (or friends!) to join you for walks.
- Join a walking group or a Meetup group for active older adults.
- Walk in the mall during the colder months.
- Use a pedometer or activity tracker to count your steps.
- Walk up and down stairs or on a hill in your neighborhood.
Come on in, the Water’s Fine
For people with joint or chronic pain or weight issues, spending time in the pool may be beneficial. Aquatic exercise is great because it’s low impact and can be a fun form of physical activity. Being buoyant is a freeing feeling, too.
You can buy a swimming pass to your local pool, join your local YMCA, or even try open water swimming in a wetsuit during the summer months.
How to get started:
- Try lap swimming.
- Buy a water belt and walk or jog in place or back and forth during designated lap swimming times at the pool.
- Take swimming lessons.
- Join a water aerobics class with like-minded folks.
- Learn how to paddle board. You can do it while seated or standing, and it’s a really enjoyable workout.
- Use a kickboard to work your legs and give your arms a rest.
Set Up a Home Gym
Not everybody has the inclination to work out in public or join a health club because it’s not convenient or too expensive. Even the vice president of 24 Hour Fitness Centers, Kevin Steele, says you can get a good workout without leaving home and it’s a good way to adopt fitness as a lifestyle.
“The key thing is that you do something, somewhere, sometime,” says Steele, PhD, exercise physiologist.
Strength training will help you maintain healthy bone mass and slow the inevitable age-related muscle mass and is just as important to health as a cardio workout. It also helps you sit taller and straighter, and perform everyday activities such climbing stairs and getting out of a chair with greater ease.
How to get started:
- Buy a yoga mat.
- Buy a stability ball.
- Get some dumbbells.
- Purchase resistance bands.
- Set up a home gym in your garage or spare room, complete with locker room benches, and invite your friends over for a workout and coffee.
- Watch some training videos on your TV or computer for instruction and motivation.
- Look into purchasing a treadmill, elliptical or stationary bike to supplement your other home workout equipment.
An active lifestyle may not seem synonymous with aging, but it’s more important than ever because it’s not only good for your heart but your mind, mood and memory. It doesn’t matter how old you are or the state of your physical condition, it’s never too late to get healthy, stay healthy and have fun doing it.