Exercise for your health

Cheryl Walker

Few of us really enjoy exercise, but we need to exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle. Start today to add exercise to your daily routine. A simple walk is a good start and then slowly build time and intensity to your exercise routine. Remember that the pounds we have gained were acquired over years of over eating and lack of exercise, so plan of taking a little bit of time to reduce the pounds.

Andrew Crocker, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension program specialist in gerontology health, said regular exercise and physical activity are important to the physical and mental health of almost everyone, including older adults. Being physically active can allow people to do the things they enjoy, stay independent as they age and produce long-term health benefits. Health experts agree that older adults should be active every day to maintain optimal health.

Physical activities get the body moving, and can be anything from gardening, walking and/or taking the stairs instead of the elevator Exercise is a form of physical activity that is specifically planned or structured, such as weight training or an aerobics class.

Physical activity may be especially helpful to older adults, Crocker said. In addition to helping mood and increasing social interaction, it may help prevent, delay or improve conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Physical activity also helps strengthen muscles and bones which have a tendency to weaken as the body ages.

“One of the great things about physical activity is that there are so many ways to be active,” Crocker said. “For example, you can be active in short spurts throughout the day, or you can set aside specific times of the day on specific days of the week to exercise. Many physical activities are free or low cost and do not require special equipment.”

The National Institute on Aging recommends the following when considering exercise and/or physical activity:

• Stretch. Always stretch before starting any exercise and after completing any exercise. This will help loosen and warm muscles in addition to helping prevent injury and cramping. It is also important to remember the body needs plenty of water, especially after exercising.

• 30 minutes. Do something to increase the heart and breathing rate for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. The 30 minutes do not have to be all at once; it could be three 10-minute exercises. A good rule of thumb to see if you are exercising at the right intensity is to try to talk. If you cannot talk at all, you are exercising too hard; if you can talk without any trouble, you are not exercising hard enough.

• Use the muscles. Every movement uses a muscle. When those muscles are not used because of a lack of physical activity they weaken. Weak muscles may create an inability to walk or get up from a seated position. Strong muscles help reinforce bones. When you reinforce your bones, it makes falls less likely.

• Improve balance. In addition to strengthening muscles, strengthening sense of balance is important. To do this, try standing on one foot, holding onto a chair for support if unable to do this task alone. Also, try standing from a seated position without using hands or arms. Be very careful when trying these activities and have someone else present.

“Your health provider will be a key player in your exercise routine,” Crocker said. “Please remember to consult him or her before beginning any type of physical activity. You will want to discuss how your personal health condition may be affected by exercise. Also, you will want to start slowly with any type of exercise routine. Exercise may cause soreness or a little discomfort but should never cause pain,” Crocker said.

A good guideline to remember is “start low and go slow.” Doing too much, too soon may cause serious injury. Some safety recommendations from the American College of Sports Medicine include:

• Do not hold your breath while straining.

• Use safety equipment to prevent injury. This may mean a helmet for bike riding or proper shoes for walking or running.

• Drink plenty of liquids unless specifically advised otherwise by your health provider.

• Bend from the hips, not from the waist.

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2014-01-30 digital edition

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