Get Active

By Cindy Cafferty

November 20, 2008 5 min read


Don't just sit there -- get fit by doing what you love

Cindy Cafferty

Creators News Service

You've heard the caveats, seen the newscasts and been advised by your doctor about getting active. Staying fit can add years to your life, and make those years healthier and happier.

What you may not know, however, is how to get started, how much activity constitutes enough activity and all the options out there for the boomer plus generation.

"The most common misconception, and a key factor for older adults ... is that exercise has to be strenuous to yield health benefits," said Jessica Matthews, continuing education coordinator for the American Council on Exercise (ACE). "Something as simple as a brisk walk with friends or family is a suitable form of moderate exercise,"

According to Matthews, dispelling the myths that activity needs to be rigorous or confined to a gym are the first steps to finding a fitness program you will stick with.

"Fitness is all around us," explained Matthews. "There's no one location or one modality ... you can get the benefits of exercise from doing everyday things such as housework or gardening."

She added that engaging in activities you find enjoyable makes it more likely you'll stick to a program. The point, after all is not just to go after the healthy benefits exercise yields -- disease prevention, flexibility, strength and bone loss prevention -- but to also have fun doing it.

Matthews offered some key advice on how to get started in a fitness program and what types of exercises offer the most benefits:

* Start with something you find engaging and that you can view as more than just exercise. It should be a fun activity you look forward to.

* HMOs and senior groups partner with outside organizations to provide assistance, support and discounts to help you get started and achieve your fitness goals. AARP has partnered with ACE to provide amenities to its members. Check with your provider to see what they offer and how they can help you jump-start your regimen -- and maybe save you a little money in the process.

*Check with your primary care physician before starting or taking on a new regimen to make sure your healthy enough for the activities you choose. If it's possible, meet with a trainer. Many gyms offer free consultations to design a program that's right for you and that you'll be more likely to stick with.

* Engage your friends and family -- either for support, to add a healthy dose of competition to your newfound activity or to invigorate your sense of enthusiasm.

There are plenty of new trends in the fitness world, with many of them being easy on your body. Here are some of the most popular ones:

* Hatha Yoga: Commonly referred to as gentle yoga, it is one of the fastest growing fitness trends. According to Matthews, Hatha Yoga incorporates all aspects of a well-rounded fitness regimen and focuses on movements, positions and stretches key to increasing flexibility, balance, strength and relaxation -- all of which are pivotal to increased vitality and disease prevention.

* Aquatics: The water is a perfect place to increase flexibility and strength without straining joints and bones associated with other higher impact activities. Water aerobics and fitness classes are offered at most facilities. Matthews noted that there is a sense of safety for older people in knowing they're less susceptible to a fall.

* Chair classes: A host of gyms are offering these classes, primarily focused on strength-training, which use chairs instead of steps or a floor mat as the activity's primary focus.

* Simulated activity: Technology even has a place in fitness. Health Net has partnered with Creative Partners in Connecticut to bring the Nintendo Wii and other fitness programs to its members and residential facilities.

"We're working on a statewide Wii bowling competition right now," said sad Nick Kilsby, Creative Partners' director of public relations. "90 senior centers across the Connecticut have been participating and were down to the finals, with nearly eight senior centers now competing for the championship."

Kilsby said participants who volunteered to wear a pedometer through the competition are clocking in nearly 1500 yards in any given game. While simulated activity can't replace an actual bowling match, it can offer a fun and viable way for seniors to increase their activity and engage in some healthy competition.

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