You were made to MOVE! And, the older we get, the more essential it is to be as active as you can.
So many of us make excuses to justify our sedentary lifestyles. Adults who are overweight, have arthritis, experience breathing problems, or are battling other limiting diseases or injuries often believe there is nothing they can do to exercise — so they just sit! You may feel you can’t do what you used to do and find it discouraging to try at all. So, you just sit!
The truth is that almost anyone can enhance her life, health and future by increasing her mobility. Studies show that active lifestyles are good for your mind and body, and may increase your longevity. Plus, people who exercise in a class and with others create a social bond and accountability. Your friends expect you to show up—or they ask why you didn’t!
You Can Always Increase Your Activity Level
Increasing your physical activity may simply begin by becoming aware of how much you sit in a day. Do you sit behind a desk for hours? In the day or evening do you sit on the couch to watch your favorite TV show or movie, or relax in a favorite easy chair to take a nap or read a book? Chances are you sit at a desk or table to browse the internet or check emails. Then, of course, you sit at your kitchen table or counter to eat your meals. Your body doesn’t need all of that sitting! Get up and move around!
Almost anyone CAN do some type of physical activity. As always, check with your healthcare provider before engaging in activities that may be beyond your normal routine. Ask what specific exercises may be good for your age, body type and your activity limitations. Go slow, be careful and do only what you know is safe for you — but move!
It’s Easy To Get A Move On
If you are trapped behind a desk, take periodic breaks and simply walk around for a few minutes. If you are sitting watching a movie, do leg lifts or march in a seated position if you are able. If you are unable to lift your legs, you can flex your knees or move your ankles in opposing directions. Lift your arms out in front of you or over your head. Do bicep curls with or without added weight. Strive to lift yourself from a sitting to a standing position using only your legs – and repeat that exercise. Make it a goal to get up and walk in place during television commercials (rather than fast forwarding). Park your car further away from the store and walk a few extra steps.
It is important to strengthen our muscles and bones as we age. Have hand weights (or water bottles or cans of food) at various locations in your house that you can lift when talking on the phone, watching TV, or waiting for your food to heat in the microwave. A resistance band is good for non-impact stretching and muscle building. Plus, it is inexpensive and a good, lightweight piece of equipment to pack in your luggage when traveling. The internet offers many exercises that can be done using a band.
Be creative and look for ways to use and strengthen your body and increase your balance. Each year, more than one in four adults age 65 and older falls, often altering their lifestyle. Your balance, coordination, and bone and muscle strength are enhanced with exercise. If you are able, stand on your tiptoes to develop your calf and foot muscles. This can be done while at the sink or when reaching in the cupboard. March in place while reading a book or magazine. Occasionally, try to balance on one foot but make sure you have something nearby to stabilize you. If you are able to do stairs and it is safe, make it a point to do several flights a day — but always hang on to the railing for security.
Feel like you need more? Let the music move you. Listen to tunes that you used to dance to and before you know it, the beat will bring back memories and you will feel you just have to move. Remember doing the Grapevine? The Chicken? The Mashed Potato? If you are able, be young again and dance like no one’s watching.
Move Beyond Your Home
Get out of the house. Group classes are fun and motivating. There are numerous classes at private gyms, hospitals, fitness facilities or senior centers in our area that are designed specifically for the aging population and for those who have mobility issues. Low impact activities may be best for you. Water classes encourage active movement and stretching and can be easy on the joints. Plus, water activities offer natural resistance to strengthen your muscles and endurance. If you’re a swimmer, take advantage of fitness and community pools. Some classes focus on balance and stretching which are keys to safe mobility and muscle strength. Chair yoga, gentle yoga, and traditional yoga are mind-relaxing classes that can also increase bone density and improve your balance.
If you join a class, don’t get discouraged if you can’t do it all. Most of us can’t. Almost all instructors will encourage you to do what you can and to keep moving. Feel free to alter the movements according to your abilities. Keep your sense of humor and enjoy the camaraderie of those around you.
Many fitness facilities have personal trainers who can help you get moving again if you are not a person who enjoys classes. The internet has an abundance of exercise programs and apps that allow you to choose a workout you can do at home. There should be no excuses.
Go for a walk and enjoy the outdoors, either by yourself or with a friend, a neighbor, or your dog of a friend’s dog if you’re an animal lover. Begin by walking a short distance, trying to increase it over time. When grocery shopping, walk the perimeter of the store and up and down the aisles if you have the time. Electronic devices, including your phone, can keep track of the number of steps you take in a day. If you have a competitive spirit, you may find it motivating to try to outdo yourself and set new step records periodically. Some devices will send you a message if you have been inactive too long. Or set an alarm on your phone to remind you to get up and move.
As we age, we all have limitations that can make moving difficult.
It may surprise you, but many people find that the more they move, the less pain and discomfort they have. Be good to yourself and your body. Make moving part of your life.