As we age, most of us will agree that aging graciously is a goal. In our retirement years, many of us want to spend time with grandchildren, travel, and to pursue those creative projects that we put off earlier in our working years; but the statistics tell us that putting those things off until our older years isn’t always the best decision. Sometimes it is best to “chip away” at those “to do” lists and not leave them for later. Let’s look at a few of those to-dos and see if we can make time for them in the here and now.
Activity will reap benefits
The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition website (http://www.fitness.gov/resource-center/facts-and-statistics/) reports that “less than 5% of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity each day and only one in three adults receives the recommended amount of physical activity each week. Of these adults, “Only 35-44% of adults 75 years or older are physically active, and 28-34% of adults ages 65-74 are physically active.”
In Tennessee the health statistics are even more alarming: according to the United Health Foundation’s “American’s Health Ranking Senior Report 2015,” Tennessee ranks 44 overall. In terms of senior physical inactivity, (the percentage of adults 65+ in fair or better health), Tennessee ranks 48 out of 50 states.
These might be alarming stats for the state of our health and wellbeing. Staying active and getting the recommended daily exercise may seem like a monumental task for some, but if you strive to make it fun and engaging, you can work exercise into your daily life. People put off exercise in their older years because they may have sustained injuries or believe exercise is difficult, but the mental and physical benefits of regular exercise greatly outweigh those perceived difficulties.
Studies have shown that exercise can reduce the impact of chronic illness; can enhance the flexibility of joints, overall balance and mobility; helps to maintain or reduce weight gain, improves sleep, and most of all, increases oxygen flow to the brain. Therefore exercise is good for the brain! Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous; there are many types of programs that are fun and engaging.
After first checking with your doctor before beginning an exercise program, setting up a regular schedule of fitness should be your next goal. It generally takes doing something several times before it becomes a habit, so make a schedule and try to stick to it. Focus on short-term goals first—strive to feel good in your body — revel in what your body can do and not on losing weight. Low-impact fitness programs like yoga, strength training, walking, tai chi, and swimming offer modifications to suit your level of fitness and mobility.
Fitness can soothe the mind and spirit
Your fitness plan is not all about exercise for your body; it is a great way to engage your mind and soothe your spirit. Find ways to combine fitness with things you like to do. If you walk laps at the mall, do some window shopping. If you like photography, take photos while you take a walk on a nature trail. Enroll in a yoga class and enjoy the peace it brings when you are quieting your mind.
Don’t forget about the benefits of doing exercise with friends, family members, grandchildren or even your pets. Working out with a loved one can make exercise fun and help you build and strengthen bonds. Take a walk with your grandkids at the park as they ride their bikes. Go bowling with friends. Walk your dog at a dog park and meet other pet lovers. Take a beginning ballroom dance class and meet other adults who enjoy dancing. Make fitness a companion to the other things in life you already enjoy.
If you are new to exercise or haven’t exercised in a while, try a few different activities to see what you enjoy. Make friends by taking fitness classes with other like-minded people. Reap the benefits of exercise for a healthier, stronger you.
By Misa Acox, Graphic Design & Publications Manager.