Millions of aging Americans have already discovered the true fountain of youth—exercise. Staying active through a fitness/sports program is one of the keys to living longer and feeling better.
But it's important—especially if you have flexibility or mobility issues—to find an exercise regimen that you are comfortable with that also produces results.
If you stick with it, you'll find relief from arthritis pain, anxiety and boredom, as well as enjoy increased independence as you age.
Here are some ideas to help you get started. As always, please consult with your doctor before starting any exercise program:
- Endurance activities—like walking, swimming, or riding a bike—which build "staying power" and improve the health of the heart and circulatory system.
- Strengthening exercises, which build muscle tissue and reduce age-related muscle loss.
- Stretching exercises to keep the body limber and flexible.
- Balance exercises to reduce the chances of a fall.
It's also recommended that you participate in outdoor sports and/or fitness activities when possible. Studies show that outdoor activites boost mood and self-esteem.
Proper hydration before, during and after a workout is key, as is stretching before and after to reduce the risk of injury.
If you have any doubts about your ability to participate in sports, consider these five popular myths about aging and exercise:
There's no point to exercising. I'm going to get old anyway.
Exercise and strength training help you look and feel younger, and stay active longer. Regular physical activity lowers your risk for a variety of conditions, including Alzheimer's and dementia, heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, high blood pressure and obesity.
Elderly people shouldn't exercise. They should save their strength and rest.
Research shows that a sedentary lifestyle is unhealthy for the elderly. Inactivity often causes seniors to lose the ability to do things on their own and can lead to more hospitalizations, doctor visits and use of medicines for illnesses.
Exercise puts me at risk of falling down.
Building strength and stamina by regularly exercising prevents loss of bone mass and improves balance, actually reducing your risk of falling.
It's too late. I'm already too old to start exercising.
You're never too old to exercise! If you've never exercised before, or it's been a while, start with light walking and other gentle activities.
I'm disabled. I can't exercise sitting down.
Chair-bound people face special challenges, but can lift light weights, stretch and do chair aerobics to increase range of motion, improve muscle tone and promote cardiovascular health.
Information from the National Institute on Aging
was used to supplement this report.