“Physical activity is the only thing we know for sure that works to help preserve function with age,” says Barbara Nicklas, professor of geriatrics and gerontology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. She recommends older adults who want to become more active set manageable and realistic short-term (daily) and long-term (monthly) goals. She offers the following examples of realistic goals:
-Join an exercise class that is geared specifically for older adults. Class participation leads to better accountability and increases social contact.
-Find opportunities for increasing movement throughout daily life. For example, resolve to walk up and down at least one flight of stairs daily, or to stand up whenever talking on the phone.
-Begin a walking program to gain back or maintain walking endurance. Start by walking as long as you feel comfortable and pain-free, and then add 30 seconds or a minute the next day, and every day thereafter. If you miss a day, or even a week or longer, start again at the level of walking you are comfortable with.
The recommended amount of exercise for older adults is 150 minutes a week, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.
It’s never too late to start exercising and begin reaping the benefits of improved health and fitness.
Just ask Hearthstone resident Nancine Hugen, 91. She started using the NuStep® recumbent cross trainer for 30 minutes twice a week in January 2012. She’s worked up to exercising three times a week, usually for 35-40 minutes. She regularly achieves her goal of taking 3,000 to 3,200 steps in each session.
“I’ve had two surgeries on my left hip and I find that I get stiff and sore if I don’t get my exercise,” Nancine says. “Since I made exercising a priority, I find I can get around my apartment and complete my daily tasks easier. Although I have limited vision due to a stroke, I don’t let that stop me from being active. Exercising keeps me in shape so I can still do all the things I enjoy around our local community.”
Nancine’s determination proves that every day can be Senior Health and Fitness Day––and that it is never too late to “Think Healthy, Eat Healthy, Act Healthy…Be Healthy!”
Nancy Hamilton is Executive Director of Hearthstone, a Ministry of WesleyLife.