As we grow older we tend to become less active. This is often a slow process that leaves us overweight and out of shape before we know it. How can we stop this process? The first step toward a more active, healthy lifestyle is exercise.Why is Exercise Important?
A safe, effective exercise program can help reduce some of the aches and pains that are a part of getting older. It can also slow down the progression of conditions associated with aging. For example:© 2008, Jupiter Images Corp.
An effective exercise program is made up of several components: aerobic conditioning, flexibility and agility exercises, strength training, and relaxation techniques. Before starting an exercise program be sure to talk with your doctor, especially if you have a heart problem or history of heart disease.© 2008, Jupiter Images Corp.
Aerobic Conditioning improves the health of your heart and lungs. It also helps to manage your weight. With aerobic exercise, you move continuously to increase your heart rate and keep it elevated for a sustained period of time. How long you can exercise aerobically will depend on your fitness level. A general guideline is to work up to 20 to 30 minutes a day, three to four days a week.
Choose activities that you enjoy and can do regularly. Common aerobic activities include walking, jogging, bicycling, swimming, low impact aerobic classes, water exercise classes, and dancing. Many people prefer using machines, such as a rowing machine, stair climber, treadmill, elliptical trainer, or stationary bicycle. All forms of dancing -- ballroom, social, country western -- are another great way to get moving!
If you have arthritis, consider low- to no-impact activities such as water aerobics, swimming, elliptical trainer, Nordic track, stationary bicycle, or rowing machine.
Flexibility and Agility Exercises are important for increasing your body's range of motion. They also help lessen muscle tension and soreness, and reduce your risk of injury. We often overlook stretching and range of motion exercises, but they are very important in maintaining overall fitness.
Stretching programs and activities like yoga or tai chi are good examples of flexibility and agility training. Balance training is important and may help prevent falls and, therefore, fall-related fractures.
Tai chi is a program of exercises, breathing, and movements based on ancient Chinese practices. Seniors who practice tai chi or yoga have fewer falls and less fear of falling. These classes can also increase self-confidence and improve body balance.
Strength Training improves muscular capacity and bone density. Stronger muscles and bones make it easier to do everyday activities like carry shopping bags or do yardwork.© 2008, Jupiter Images Corp.
The most common strength training methods are working with free weights, resistance rubber bands or weight machines. It is very important to avoid strength imbalances by working all the major muscle groups, including the muscles in your arms, chest, back, stomach, hips, and legs.
If you have osteoporosis or loss of bone calcium, you will need to talk with a doctor before beginning a strength training program.
Relaxation techniques are important to include in your overall fitness program. Relaxation helps maintain overall cardiac fitness, lower blood pressure, and may even improve your immune system.
Many yoga classes include relaxation techniques like deep (diaphragmatic breathing) and simple meditation. Relaxation techniques can be as simple as sitting with your eyes closed and concentrating on controlled deep breathing.Exercise Safely
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