Healthy Agers Get Moving in the New Year

The Positively Old tend to exercise their entire lives in one form or another. It is perhaps the number one thing any of us can do to improve the quality of our lives, not to mention the longevity. And a new generation of Baby Boomers is taking the over50 exercise boom to the next level.

The Trend

There are no statistics on the number of boomers who exercise on a regular basis, but experts agree that they are more physically active than their predecessors. “‘Industry surveys find that boomers are the fastest-growing segment of the health-club population, with those 50 and older accounting for 23 percent of members’, says Kara Thompson, spokesperson for the IHRSA, the International Health, Racquet and Sports Club Association that represents many of the country’s 30,000 gyms.” (as reported in a recent Seattle Times article entitled “Boomers See Sports As Way to Feel Young.”)

The Benefits

And the benefits of regular exercise are so overwhelming, the decision to get moving is really a no brainer. Who couldn’t use increased energy and esteem and improved muscle tone and posture? And don’t forget about a reduced risk of chronic health problems or general injury…or my personal favorite, enhanced sleep.

In fact, many of the problems we typically blame on old age are really more a result of inactivity. “Recent studies indicate that between the ages of 30 & 70 many of the symptoms & conditions that were traditionally associated with normal aging are in fact the result of sedentary lifestyles. Evaluating one’s strength, endurance, mobility & cardio-vascular-pulmonary performance before and after a one month period of complete bed rest can be equated to 30 years of aging,” reports  www.befitoverfifty.com on its home page.

The good news is it’s never too late to turn back the clock. On the same page, Dr. H.A. deVries, past director of the Andrus Gerontology Center at the University of Southern California and a respected pioneer in the field, is quoted as saying, “Older people can achieve the same percentage gains in performance as the young.”

Getting Motivated

In a recent article entitled “Exercise for Healthy Aging,” the Hospital for Special Surgery outlines the benefits and types of exercise people over 50 should consider. To help keep you motivated, the author recommends that you keep your exercise interesting and enjoyable by including activities that you like, choosing realistic goals and recruiting an exercise buddy, among other things. Remember—you don’t have to be able to run a marathon in order to feel better; you just have to stay active over the long haul.

If you’re not already active, what better time of year to get started than now. The first few weeks of January the gyms fill up, our refrigerators miraculously explode with fruits and vegetables, and the thought of sugar makes us vaguely ill. Okay, maybe not that last part, but I certainly find sweets easier to resist this time of year. And the shared energy of taking on new challenges is certainly in the air, adding to the inspirational ambiance that might just be enough to get us up and out of that chair.

The next step is pacing. When I was young, I would start an exercise program, get obsessive about it and then once the dread of doing something I hated all the time became too much for me, I would stop completely. As I matured, I learned to make exercise fun so I’d stick with it. I love yoga, pilates and weight training, for example, and truly look forward to any of these. Cardio is a little more difficult for me to psyche up for, so I have an exercise buddy.  Together, we do weekly hikes and train for half-marathons. I look forward to our cardio because I know we’ll work in some girl talk and frequently a healthy breakfast after we’ve completed our two hours or five miles.

The award for the best motivator I’ve ever heard of, however, goes to a girlfriend of mine. She’s a mother of four and in exceptional shape. Her secret? She does cardio one hour a day five days a week. Her motivation? She’s addicted to a particular soap opera, which she gives herself permission to watch as long as she’s on her elliptical. Talk about using your addictions to help motivate good health. I think this is sheer genius!

If  you need additional motivation and guidance, consider following Dr. Oz’ “Move it and Lose It” campaign online for the next 11 weeks. It’s free of charge and offers a comprehensive approach that attacks nutrition, exercise and lifestyle, everything you’ll need to stay the course.

That’s it for now. I gotta go pump some iron.

Happy exercising everyone!

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