It’s time to make time to get fit and stay fit
By PATTY HAMMOND
Special to the OBSERVER
Today, more and more people are enjoying life to the fullest well into their golden years, like the 103-year-old ballerina still dancing in Australia, or the 99-year-old who teaches seven yoga classes every week in New York. Recently featured on national news, the yoga instructor also dances regularly. If you too hope to feel well and be able to do all the things you enjoy for many years to come, it’s important to be physically active now.
Unlike these ladies, most of us do not move enough, even though studies show being physically active is one of the best things you can do for your health. If you want to reach and maintain a healthy weight, avoid chronic disease, and feel good, you need to eat well and be physically active on a regular basis.
If you aren’t physically active right now, starting an exercise routine can sound intimidating. Thankfully, adding any amount of physical activity to your day is beneficial. Consult your doctor and start slowly. Try walking during your lunch break, or take the stairs instead of the elevator. Add more activity over time.
Most people need at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five or more days a week. Moderate physical activities get your heart rate up so you can still talk, but you can’t sing. Examples are a brisk walk, bicycling, or dancing. Instead of being moderately active, you could also do vigorous physical activities like running, swimming laps, or playing competitive basketball for at least one hour and 15 minutes each week. When you’re doing a vigorous activity, you can only say a few words without stopping to catch your breath. You can also do a mix of moderate and vigorous physical activities throughout the week, by paying attention to how fast you’re breathing and how quickly your heart is beating.
To keep your body working well, it’s also important to get in activities that keep your bones and muscles strong. Try to do strengthening activities like push-ups, sit-ups, or weight lifting at least twice a week. You don’t need a gym membership to keep your muscles strong: soup cans or jugs of water or milk are great weights. Activities like jumping rope can help keep your bones strong. Vary your routine so all parts of your body get a workout, including your legs, hips, back, chest, stomach, shoulders and arms.
Finally, staying stable and flexible is also very important. Balance and stretching activities can help. They also reduce the risk of injuries. Gentle stretching, yoga, tai chi and dancing are all good options.
If you’re not moving as much as you should, especially when the weather is bad, it may be time to think of new ways to fit more activity into your day. To get motivated you could learn a new skill or sport. Find a class or practice along with a video to learn how to do a new dance, simple yoga or tai chi moves, or play a sport like pickle ball. School districts often offer free or low-cost classes, and have open swim and open gym hours. These are open to anyone living in the community, not just families.
Being active with friends or family can help keep you motivated. Invite a friend to go for a hike, walk around a mall, or play an exercise-based video game.
If you work behind a desk get up and stretch at least once every hour. Stand or pace while on the phone and put your file cabinet or printer far from your desk so you have to get up and move more.
For extra motivation, join a challenge for friendly competition. You may find your health insurer has a challenge you can join, or your employer or a local agency may be running one, or you can search for something motivational on-line. You can also use SuperTracker.usda.gov to track your activity.
So get up, put down your phone, turn off the TV, and get moving. Not only will being active help reduce your risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, and some cancers, it can also boost your mood, battle stress, and help you sleep better. Being active has also been shown to reduce falls in older adults, and to keep their minds sharp.
Get moving on the path to a long, healthy life!
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