There’s a reason that “lose weight” is typically the #1 New Year’s resolution: being healthy and fit can lead to fulfilling other common resolutions such as “enjoying life to the fullest” and “spending more time with family.”
Just like setting New Year’s resolutions, there is no age limit on getting fit and staying healthy to improve well-being. By exercising regularly, older adults can increase the number of years that they might be able to continue living independently and reduce the chances of certain diseases or offset symptoms of existing conditions.
Consider that one third of the United States population is obese and obesity-related conditions such as heart disease, some types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, and stroke are among the leading causes of preventable death. When you hit the treadmill, jump in the pool, or lace up the sneakers, you will probably have plenty of company as many others also seek to improve their bodies and minds.
Keep in mind, it’s not enough just be physically active doing things like chores around the house, walking the dog, gardening and so on. People also need exercise that gets their blood flowing and heart pumping in order to truly improve their health over time.
Put Yourself First
Regular exercise can potentially stave off:
- high blood pressure
- type 2 diabetes
- coronary heart disease
- some cancers
- sleep apnea
There are many other benefits to exercising too. When people join a gym or go to a pool or just invite a friend for a walk or to join up at a yoga class, they are less likely to feel lonely or bored in their lives.
Getting outdoors, seeing friends, and improving circulation can lead to better moods and lower feelings of stress.
Falls can be a serious risk for older adults. Regular exercise can improve balance and therefore reduce the possibility of falling and being injured. The National Institute on Aging provides a list of exercises for gaining better balance.
Don’t Take Your Abilities for Granted
When people are young and healthy, they don’t think twice when they go on tiptoe to grab something off a high shelf or bend over to tie their shoes or open a jar of spaghetti sauce. However, age and some chronic conditions can rob them of the ability to do these simple tasks in their own homes.
Lifting weights and other exercise to build muscle strength can make it possible to continue carrying your own groceries or laundry or grandkids. Lower body strength will be needed to go up and down stairs and also lift things. Weight-bearing exercise can also help prevent weakening bones, which occurs in older adults with osteoporosis.
Aerobic exercise—the kind that increase heart and breathing rates—will improve endurance. As you build up endurance it means you will still be able to participate in activities with grandkids like walking them to the park and pushing them in the swings, gardening, and more.
Staying limber is important too. Right now it might seem like the easiest thing in the world to look over your shoulder while driving, but flexibility can diminish over time. Doing regular stretching exercises can mean the difference between being able to dress yourself or not.
No Time Like the Present
Since New Year’s occurs in the middle of winter, many people need to find a way to exercise indoors—at least until spring. Plus, it can be slippery outside so it might just be safer in a facility.
If another one of your resolutions is to spend less, consider joining Silver Sneakers® Fitness, an organization that partners with health plans nationwide to provide access to fitness facilities and classes for older adults. Usually, Silver Sneakers members can use local partner facilities at no additional cost.
A local recreation center, as opposed to a private gym, can also be cost effective and offer a variety of fitness activities for all levels.
Find an indoor place, such as a mall, where you can walk and go up and down stairs, if you are able.
Give yourself a post-holiday gift of a membership to a yoga studio or fitness center where you can enjoy everything from Tai Chi classes to water aerobics.
Whether or not you are a family caregiver, it’s important to take care of you all year long so that you can enjoy your life to the fullest.