Healthy Aging

healthy aging

Spring to Life

Spring is here and now is the time to rededicate yourself to healthy aging.  One of the few things that you absolutely control in terms of health and preventive medicine is how much exercise you engage in.  It is well known that regular exercise along with diet and seeing your physician regularly are the cardinal activities that you control regarding staying healthy.

The National Institute of Aging has a relatively new initiative entitled "Go4Life" that you can visit online.  This site has everything you need to educate, motivate and allow yourself to design and evaluate your exercise program.  The Go4Life campaign has an exercise video and an interactive website tool to keep you going.  One of the many helpful aspects of the program is that there are lots of stories authored by us "seniors" on how exercise has improved our health.  Reading these is motivational.

Helpful and Healthful Ideas

No matter where one is in the exercise spectrum, from nowhere to a marathon runner, it is important to keep a log that allows you to actually see where you are and then plan to improve gradually.  The log on the Go4Life site can be downloaded.

There are four general types of exercise that are good for you: 1) cardiovascular or endurance designed to increase heart rate and cardiovascular fitness, 2) strength/resistance designed to improve muscle and bone health and mass, 3) stretching and flexibility designed to improve joint and muscle use, and 4) balance and coordination that are helpful in preventing falls.  It is important to engage in all four and to list all of these in your daily inventory.

It is important to evaluate your present activity level so that you can discuss this with your physician to talk about doing more, to visit with a personal trainer to get advice about what to do next or just to motivate yourself about improving the amount of activities you now have.  It is important when filling out the table that you think about the question "ways to increase activity" because the name of the game is to do more and a greater variety, no matter where you currently are.

Your Weekly Activity Plan

Another table provided by Go4Life, is quite explicit and gives you a way to guarantee that you will do something each day to help maintain or improve health.  We have written before that it is good to do endurance (activities that elevate heart rate) at least three to five days a week, but not every day.  However, it is important on those days not doing the really "physical" exercising that something is done like walking up steps, balancing or weight work (lifting groceries counts!).  The point is to have a schedule that you adhere to to be certain that you are mindful of the need to be active.  There are things to do to make this easier: 1) make it a priority and put it on your calendar or refrigerator, 2) make it easy so that you do not judge it hard and therefore not fun, and 3) make is social - invite others or join others in activities - this is very effective whether it is a regular golf/tennis engagement or an exercise class or meeting at the gym, it is easier to do it with others than alone.  Finally, there will always be unpreventable interruptions, and no matter what the reason for the interruptions (travel, visitors, illness, etc.) get back to the activities slowly working your way back to where you were before the cessation.

Remember when augmenting exercise to keep an eye out for new symptoms that warrant discussion with your physician and these include, but are not limited to: chest pain or tightness, dizziness, severe shortness of breath, swelling in the ankles, unplanned weight loss, joint swelling or pain, or any disturbing protracted pain.

The bottom line is physical activity is essential to healthy aging.  this time of year reminds us it is time to get out and get active again.  Go for it!

Health Library: Designing an Exercise Program

Fitness Classes from the MUSC Wellness Center

Podcast: The Difficulties of Starting an Exercise Program


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