It's important for people of all ages, especially seniors, to stay active. According to the Centers for Disease Control, being physically active can reduce your risk of dying from heart disease and decreases the risk for colon cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure. Physical activity also helps control weight; contributes to healthy bones, muscles and joints; relieves the pain of arthritis; reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression; and can decrease the need for hospitalizations, physician visits and medications. Indeed, there's a lot riding on incorporating exercise into a lifestyle.
There's no better time than now to start exercising. Be sure to check with a doctor before increasing physical activity, especially if there is a chronic disease or family history of chronic disease, chest pain, shortness of breath, high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes, blood clots, infections or fever, joint swelling, hip surgery or a hernia.
Here are some tips to help get started.
Don't just jump into a fitness routine. First, stretch the arms, legs and back. Start off slowly, gradually increasing the pace of the exercise. Don't do too much too soon or injury could result. For example, the AARP suggests starting with 10 minutes of walking before going to 20 and then 30 minutes. For a strength-training program using weights and machines, talk to a fitness instructor on how much weight to lift and how to use the machines properly.
Exercise should make a person feel better, not worse. A little soreness, discomfort or fatigue is normal. Listen to the body. If light headedness occurs, a shortness of breath, a sudden, severe headache, are sweating excessively, or have pains in the chest, stomach or anywhere else, exercising should be halted. If symptoms persist, contact a doctor.
If the person is on medication or has a condition that alters their heart rate, don't use the pulse as a judge of how fast the heart is or should be beating.
Wear the proper protective equipment for the activity. When biking, wear a helmet. If in-line skating is the choice, wear a helmet as well as knee and elbow pads. Protective gear should be of good quality and fit properly. It may be expensive, but it's an expense that is well worth it.
Watch out for the elements. If it's hot, exercise in the early morning or early evening when it's cooler, or stay in the shade and wear lightweight clothing. If it's cold, dress in layers, and be careful of ice and snow.
It's especially important to stay hydrated when engaged in exercise that makes you sweat. Drink before, during and after exercise to prevent dehydration.
A cool down is just as important as a warm up. Stretch the arms, legs and back to bring the heart rate back to its normal level.