A young athletic woman stretches out her legs before going on a morning jog, running the paths at Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland, Oregon. The sun shines from behind the Burnside bridge, giving a warm glow to the image.
By CRAIG W. ARMSTRONG
Whether you have spent your life exercising or it’s something new to you, getting fit is never a bad idea, regardless of age. As we age, things change. We slow down, our minds are less sharp and our bodies begin to show wear and tear.
But there is one thing that can help: exercise. They say a body in motion tends to stay in motion and this is absolutely true. If you are over 50, it’s a good time to start exercising. It’s okay to be old and it’s okay to be out of shape, but it’s not good to be old AND out of shape.
So what are the benefits of exercising for older adults? First, it helps you lose and control your weight. Have you ever seen a young person pig out on pizza, burgers, fries, ice cream or all of the above, while you eat sensibly? They can do this because they are young and their metabolism is high. Yours was too, once. But alas, it isn’t anymore. Thus you gain weight more easily. Exercising will help you shed those pounds or at least keep you from gaining more.
Next, exercise increases your mobility and flexibility. By building muscle, you are enhancing your balance and reducing your risk of falls. Some conditions such as arthritis can have their symptoms alleviated by strength training.
In the same respect, exercise can reduce the impact of many other illnesses and reduce the risk of some diseases. People who exercise regularly are at a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and some forms of cancer.
It’s clear what exercise can do for your body, but it can also do great things for your mind and your mood. Exercise reduces stress and can reduce depression and anxiety. It can also help prevent memory loss and dementia.
Exercise can also be a great way to socialize. If you are retired, you are not surrounded by people all day, and it can be lonely. By joining a gym or an exercise group, you will be around people. It’s also a great way to share time with your spouse or significant other.
Before beginning any exercise program, see your doctor, and this applies to any age. Make sure you are healthy enough to exercise and don’t have any problems that have not been detected. While you’re there, talk to your doctor about your plans and get his or her advice. Your doctor will have information on exercise and diet.
Once you are medically cleared, start slow. It isn’t about how much you exercise; it’s about how consistent you are. Exercise is a great idea at any age, but as you get older it becomes more about feeling good than looking good.