5 Ways to Stay Active as You Age
Although it's common to begin leading a more sedentary lifestyle as you get older, the worst thing you can do for your health is come to a complete standstill. In fact, some of the physical and mental symptoms that are associated with getting older are actually due to the inactivity that so often accompanies aging, says Meena Garg, MD, of Indiana University's Center for Sports Medicine.
To help ward off physical conditions that make it more difficult to stay active, such as osteoporosis, heart disease, and weight gain, you must get some type of exercise on a regular basis. Physical activity also helps you stay motivated by improving your mood and protecting against cognitive decline and depression. Here's what you can do to help yourself stay as active as possible.
Maintain Physical Strength
You may not be able to do strenuous exercise, but doing some form of aerobic or cardiovascular activity such as brisk walking, riding a bicycle, or swimming and also some sort of strength training with light weights, on a regular basis, will help you maintain or recover muscle mass, and give you the strength and coordination you need to stay active and reduce your risk of injury. If you have not been doing any formal exercise, and wish to start, speak with your doctor or a certified trainer first, to make sure you know which exercises are safest and most effective for you at this stage of your life.
To be physically active, your muscles have to be flexible. Stretching exercises help ensure that your muscles stay as elastic as possible. Sign up for a stretching class or try yoga or tai chi, which can also help maintain or improve balance. Or pick up an exercise DVD that features stretches and is designed for older men and women to do simple stretches at home. Remember to warm up your muscles before you stretch. A few minutes of running in place or walking while pumping your arms can provide a good warm-up.
If you're not part of a group of people who socialize on a regular basis, join clubs and organizations that promote social relationships and keep you moving. Churches, libraries, and community centers often arrange group outings to shopping centers, concerts, and tourist sites for seniors and singles of all ages. Volunteer to work with these or other types of organizations to gain a sense of purpose and a new reason to get up every day. Sign up for classes to help keep your mind sharp and keep you up to date with all the ways the world is changing so that you continue to feel like a vital part of it all.
Get Enough Sleep
It may be easier said than done, but it's a fact that getting enough sleep helps your body produce the fuel it needs to stay active. When you are physically active throughout the day, however, you will sleep better at night. And when you sleep well at night, you are more capable of activity during the day.
Even as you age, you can pick up a new sport such as tennis, horseback riding, bowling or golf. Or take dancing lessons. Even when you don't feel like engaging in formal exercise, there are many ways to stay active as you age. Routine housework, gardening, stair climbing, walking around a mall, and just walking anywhere and everywhere, all contribute to a goal of doing some sort of physical activity every day.