Keeping fit for life
By Bryan Goodland; courtesy photo
Everyone knows that staying active is one of the keys to aging gracefully. But what does that look like amidst our everyday busy lives? How can we possibly squeeze fitness into everything else going on? To start with, focus on four key areas and your fitness level will increase each time.
Keeping up with life can be tough sometimes. Work, family, kids and grandkids can wear anyone down, so endurance is really important. Think of it as the ability to maintain physical activity over a period of time. Maybe that means chasing the grandkids up the stairs for the tenth time or just carrying the groceries into the house. Whatever fitness level you find yourself at, focus on endurance.
If you’re just starting out, try walking and slowly increase the distance and duration. If you are feeling bold, sign up for a dance class or try water aerobics. The key here is to maintain the exercise for a given time and then try to improve month after month.
As we age we lose muscle mass and strength. So to stem the tide, you have to include strength exercises into your routine. No, you don’t have to bench 500 pounds and squat half a ton, but you do need to strengthen those muscles.
For strength training, you can use everything from dumbbells to a can of vegetables to start. Choose weights you are comfortable with and can control through the full range of motion. You can even use resistance bands if you are more comfortable with the concept.
And don’t forget old-fashioned exercises like push ups, sit ups and unweighted squats. If you’ve never done any weight training before, it’s best to take a class or get with a trainer so you can work on proper form.
We often hear about people falling and breaking a hip or hurting themselves. While these accidents aren’t always entirely avoidable, working on your balance throughout life can definitely minimize their occurrence.
A simple routine to try is standing on one foot while you brush your teeth. Just lift one foot barely off the floor, count to ten and then switch feet. Continue until you are finished brushing your teeth. As you improve you can work on lifting your foot higher and timing it for longer.
Also try walking a straight line heel to toe. You can put some masking tape on the floor and walk that and even move to a low-to-the-floor balance beam if you really want to mix things up.
If you struggle with balance look into Tai Chi and Qigong. You can even look into beginner martial arts classes for improved balance and overall health. All of these disciplines will help you with improving and maintaining your balance as you get older.
The final leg to your fitness journey is flexibility. Being flexible helps in everyday activities, from bending down to grab something off the floor to getting out of your car.
If you have/had a desk job, it is important to stretch, especially those shoulder and neck muscles. Touching your toes, reaching up to the ceiling and trunk rotations are all an important part of staying limber.
For a more focused approach, you can enroll in a yoga class. Not only will these classes stretch out some of those muscles, but it will give you a better overall sense of your body.
Of course before embarking on any fitness routine check in with your doctor and make sure you don’t have any restrictions. Then start slowly and work your way up. Soon you will notice a difference in your overall well-being.
The U.S. government maintains a site on aging and health with a plethora of tips and tricks. Visit: https://go4life.nia.nih.gov/.