These days, many of us are more aware of the benefits of exercise than older generations were. Seriously, how many of your Baby-Boomer (1946-1964) or Silent Generation (born before 1945) parents and grandparents went jogging regularly, practiced yoga, or participated in triathlons? We bet those were rare birds back in the day. But, over the decades, physical fitness moved to the top of priority lists for many thanks to better education across the globe about the benefits of exercising at every age.
In case you haven’t noticed, it gets harder to get into a physically fit routine the older we age. As years go by, muscle mass naturally diminishes, but does so at a faster pace if you don’t use those muscles. Every move you make—and especially those moves you don’t make—impacts your agility and ability to live comfortably and independently in your golden years. Plainly speaking, even though you may be a homebody or enjoy binge-watching TV or reading book after book—we are telling you NOT to sit around in retirement.
Recently, USA Today published an article outlining some of the top health habits for people over 60. That article made an interesting point in that so many folks are focused on retirement planning and wealthy portfolios—but how many are just as committed to “retirement health planning?” After all, what good will those savings do you if you aren’t healthy enough to enjoy your retirement years?
Take a walk. It is well known that purposeful, physical activity relieves stress and can make you happier on a daily basis. Walking gets your blood flowing and helps preserve important muscles that allow you to easily move yourself from one place to another. And we aren’t talking about sauntering around the block at a snail’s pace, either. Brisk walking is considered moderate aerobic exercise and the goal here is to raise your heart rate for at least 10 minutes a day, five days a week.
You might have to start with small steps if you’ve never been physically active, but you should build this into your daily routine. Eventually, trade walking for other moderate activities that you enjoy. Swimming, bike riding, light jogging and/or indoor treadmills and elliptical machines are good choices depending on your physical fitness.
Maintain your balance and flexibility. This is so important because as we age, we are more prone to falling. Balance is key and you can maintain yours by doing simple exercises such as standing on one leg with your eyes closed for a mere 30 seconds each leg, walking backwards and sideways, and standing up from a sitting position.
Additionally, activities such as yoga sustain flexibility. Spending 10 minutes two days a week stretching helps to keep your entire body properly aligned and assists with daily living activities.
Don’t resist resistance training. This is critical in retaining muscle mass and preventing loss in bone density. You can work with dumbbells and resistance bands at home if you prefer a private setting or hit the weight machines with friends at a local gym. Although, if you’re an avid gardener you can count lifting, carrying, and digging as an activity here.
The important thing is to work the major muscles in your body by pushing, pulling, and lifting to keep those muscles working for you. If you’re at a loss as to where to begin, consider a personal trainer to help you develop a routine.
The above tips are meant to help you understand why exercise is important and to give you an idea of what you should be doing to keep yourself in good physical condition as you age. Bear in mind that your current physical health is a huge factor in determining the proper level of exercise for you. Consult with your health care provider to ensure any new regimen you take on is appropriate for you.