Getting in shape is the no. 1 New Year’s resolution. Physical activity benefits every one at every age.
“It’s never too late to start exercising. Even people in their 90s can benefit from physical activity, whether it’s walking or lifting weights while seated in a wheelchair,” says Deepali Yawalkar, Director of Rehabilitation Services at Christian Health Care Center. “The worst possible thing a senior can do is stop moving.”
When combined with proper nutrition, exercise helps the body – particularly the cardiovascular, pulmonary, and immune systems – perform more efficiently and effectively. Strength, endurance, and energy levels increase; posture, balance, mental functions, and self-esteem improve; proper weight can be maintained; and stress and risk of disease are reduced.
“Ongoing moderate exercise can prevent, delay, or help a person cope with an illness, disease, or disability,” Ms. Yawalkar says. “For instance, exercise can help reduce joint swelling in arthritis sufferers. Among individuals with diabetes, it can lower and control blood-glucose levels.”
Starting an exercise program begins with a phone call to your physician. He/she can suggest activities appropriate for your health status.
“Your physician may refer you to a physical therapist, who will devise a program based on your limitations, if any. If function or joint motion is compromised, for instance, some exercise may do more harm than good. A physical therapist will develop a safe, beneficial exercise regimen,” Ms. Yawalkar says.
Routines need not be elaborate. In general, exercise should begin with a warm-up and end with a cool-down. If possible, incorporate weight training for strength, aerobics for strength and endurance, and stretching for flexibility.
Partake in activities that you enjoy; you’re more likely to keep doing them. Eat nutritious foods to provide fuel for your body. If you’re pressed for time, divide your exercise into small er sessions throughout the day. If your enthusiasm starts to wane, remind yourself about the benefits. And don’t feel guilty if you skip a day or two. One missed exercise session will not negate the gains you’ve experienced.
“Arthur Fiedler, the celebrated conductor of the Boston Pops for 50 seasons, once said, ‘He who rests, rots,’ and that’s very true,” Ms. Yawalkar says. “mr. Fiedler had all sorts of ailments, but he never stopped moving. He maintained his vitality and conducted well into his 80s.”