Ready to go? OK. Let's get started!
First, easy does it. Before you begin any exercise program, talk to your doctor to ensure that you work within your healthy zone. Next, sign up to take a class at the "Y" or other recreation center where there is a certified fitness instructor who can devise a safe program for you. Once you've done that, concentrate on these four areas:
- Heart and respiratory fitness. Any activity that increases your heart rate and breathing (ask your physician for safety guidelines) over a period of 20 to 30 minutes per day is great. Choices include walking, dancing, swimming, and for you domestic folks, raking the leaves or scrubbing the floor. But the best bit of advice I have is to do something you enjoy.
- Strength exercises. These can help build or maintain your muscles, which in turn help to increase your metabolism, which can help to keep your blood sugar in check and either help you maintain or reduce your weight.
- Balance exercises. This means Tai Chi or other similar techniques that can help to decrease the risk of unwanted falls, broken bones and other injuries.
- Flexibility or stretching techniques. Yoga is a great example. I remember one instructor who said, "In yoga, we don't tell a person by their age, but by their flexibility." These types of exercises help to maintain posture and joint health.
My last word of advice: Please do not exercise to the point where you are out of breath, dizzy or have any chest pain. You can get great results by starting slowly, while incorporating a regular routine of physical activity into your daily life.
For more information on safe activities for seniors, call 1-800-222-2225 to obtain the free book called Exercise: A Guide from the National Institute on Aging.
Copyright 2003, Dr. Rob Danoff
Robert Danoff, D.O., M.S., is a family physician. He is program director of Family Practice Residency Frankford Hospitals, Jefferson Health System, Philadelphia, Pa. He also is a medical correspondent for The Comcast Network, CN8, contributing writer to the New York Times and writes a weekly medical column for the Bucks Courier Times, Bucks County Pa.