5 ways to stay active as you age

No pain, no gain is a myth when it comes to aging gracefully. Here’s a weekly plan on how to exercise right.

“Physical Activity Is Essential to Healthy Aging”

Exercise: The Best Anti-Aging Therapy”

“Exercise Prevents Aging of Cells”

The headlines are different, but the message is the same. Research confirms that we can slow down the aging process by staying physically active.

Carmel J. Person, M.D., gerontologist with Norton Community Medical Associates – Geriatrics, says exercise can help us sleep better, stay socially active, use less medication and ward off depression. It can minimize the “bad” part of getting older and help seniors enjoy a more active, independent life.

Exercise can even temper the effects of chronic diseases, including arthritis, osteoporosis, heart disease, high cholesterol and diabetes. It may allow individuals to taper or discontinue some medications, but always under the supervision of their doctor. So let’s get started.

Dr. Person’s tips for beginning an exercise regimen

  1. Always warm up before exercising and cool down afterward to prevent injuries. This includes stretching to improve flexibility.
  2. If something hurts when you exercise, modify the exercise to eliminate the pain. (The idea of “no pain, no gain” is a myth when it comes to older adults.)
  3. Exercise at least four days a week doing moderate-intensity, low-impact activities like walking, cycling, swimming or dancing. Work to increase your heart rate over time.
  4. Include isotonic exercise, which means toning your muscles. Examples include tai chi, yoga and resistance training with elastic bands or balls. These exercises help improve balance and muscle stability.
  5. Strength training to help delay the effects of aging and assist in bone building. Use small, 1- to 2-pound hand weights to strengthen muscles, tendons and ligaments.

Try this exercise plan for the week

Monday: 30-minute bicycle ride
Tuesday: Yoga or stretching
Wednesday: 30-minute walk
Thursday: 20 minutes of weight training using light hand weights
Friday: Tai chi
Saturday: 30-minute walk

“If you’re just starting an exercise program, start slow and gradually increase duration, frequency, weight and intensity,” Dr. Person said.

Talk with your doctor before starting any exercise program and check in periodically, particularly if you experience weight loss. Routine lab work may be in order to help your physician determine if medications can be decreased or stopped.

For more on health aging and exercise, check out Making Physical Activity a Part of an Older Adult’s Life


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