Contrary to what some might think, wintertime can be a great time to start an exercise regimen. It’s a time we’re faced with a choice of staying home watching TV or getting out of the house and going to the gym, to the mall or just outside.
To help older adults get motivated about physical activity, the National Institute on Aging has published a free 100-page exercise guide that gives concrete examples of exercises that can benefit seniors the most. It also provides activity and progress charts as well as nutrition information.
I found the booklet, which is easy to read and full of illustrations, interesting and very useful.
It can be difficult for older adults to begin new exercise programs. Often, they fear injury or are alienated by youth-oriented gyms and fitness centers. But exercising can be the single most important thing adults of any age can do to improve their health.
The guide is titled “Exercise: A Guide from the National Institute on Aging” and can be downloaded for from the Web at www.nia.nih.gov/HealthInformation/Publications/ExerciseGuide.
Here’s what the guide will show you:
• Endurance exercises. They will increase your breathing and heart rate. They improve the health of your heart, lungs, and circulatory system. Having more endurance not only helps keep you healthier; it can also improve your stamina for the tasks you need to do to live and do things on your own — climbing stairs and grocery shopping, for example.
• Strength exercises. They will help you build muscles and make you stronger. They give you more strength to do things on your own. Even very small increases in muscle can make a big difference in ability, especially for frail people. Strength exercises also increase your metabolism, helping to keep your weight and blood sugar in check.
• Balance exercises. They will help prevent a common problem in older adults: falls. Falling is a major cause of broken hips and other injuries that often lead to disability and loss of independence. Some balance exercises build up your leg muscles; others require you to do simple activities like briefly standing on one leg.
• Flexibility exercises. They will help keep your body limber by stretching your muscles and the tissues that hold your body’s structures in place. Physical therapists and other health professionals recommend certain stretching exercises to help patients recover from injuries and to prevent injuries from happening in the first place. Flexibility also may play a part in preventing falls.
It will be up to you to choose what types of exercise you want to follow. One thing is sure: you’ll benefit a great deal by following any of the suggested exercises.