By Bernard Freeman
Why You Should Walk More
One of the easiest things you can do provides big dividends
You don’t need any specialized equipment or gear, just a pair of good shoes and some wide-open spaces.
Researchers have confirmed that walking helps lower stress, regulate blood sugar and lower blood pressure. It can also help you control your weight.
Even just a few minutes of walking every day can lead to a noticeable boost in overall health. Do more, and you’ll build the needed endurance to go further still.
Just remember to consult your doctor before starting. They will have specific recommendations that will help you tailor an exercise regimen to your specific needs and abilities.
The temptation may be to lace up and crisscross every sidewalk in your neighborhood. It’s important to pace yourself, in particular early on, so that you don’t overdo it. Beginning senior walkers should try five- or 10-minute intervals. You’ll see better health and fitness without risking soreness or undue pain. Make sure you have sturdy but comfortable shoes, since they can be a ready cause of stumbles, falling, strains and stiffness.
Once you’ve gotten into a regular routine, and can walk longer distances without tiring out or breathing too heavily, begin revving up. Varying your speed and intensity will have a greater impact on heart health and blood pressure problems. Inclines and interval settings on treadmills are a great way to accomplish this goal, but you can also adapt your personal approach out in the real world. Find a slightly sloping hill in your neighborhood or park and circle back around to it often.
Add a step-tracking app to your mobile phone, if it’s not already pre-installed. They can be a powerful tool in keeping up with how far you’ve come — while also serving as an aid in setting reasonable goals for where you’ll go next. You might be surprised by how many steps you’re taking while participating in everyday activities around the home and office, like dog walking or lawn mowing. Set goals for how far you’ll walk taking those organic steps in mind, and they might be more easily achieved than you ever imagined. Wearable technology like smart watches can also track your heart rate and other health data that will help as you continue reaching new heights.
Weight regimens provide a host of preventative health benefits
Seniors shouldn’t forget strength training for better balance, joint health and stability.
You’ll also be warding away chronic diseases and everyday ailments. This kind of exercise is particularly important for women as they age, since they start out with lower bone density and muscle mass. But everyone can benefit from getting stronger.
Seek out specialized help from expert trainers to learn more about creating a program, or just start working out from the comfort of your own home. You can see significant results without a huge financial or time investment.
KNOW THE LINGO
Weight training has its own special language which you’ll need to become familiar with, in particular if you’re exercising in a gym setting. A repetition, or rep, is one completion of an exercise. So, if you complete 10 curls or 10 pull ups, that’s 10 repetitions. A set is the entire group of repetitions. So, if your goal was 10 curls, and you finish with 20, that’s two sets. Don’t overdo it. Your final rep should be difficult to complete — but not impossible.
Dumb bells are ideal for weight training. They’re flexible, portable tools that can be easily customized for beginners or experts, and can be adjusted as you gain strength. They can also be utilized at home or at the gym. If you choose to work out at home, buy these weights individually so that you can confirm which ones work best for your experience level and abilities. You’ll also be spreading out the cost if your fixed-income budget won’t allow for the purchase of a complete set of dumb bells all at once.
Talk to your doctor before beginning any new routine. Newcomers should start with curls. Hold the weights at your sides, then slowly bend the elbow until the weights are at shoulder level. Keep them there for a count of three, then allow them to fall back to your sides. Next, work your way up to an overhead press. In this exercise, the weights are with elbow bent held at chest height. Slowly push the weights above your head, and again hold for three counts before lowering. Drink plenty of water as you go through these regimens, and stop immediately if you begin to feel pain.
How to Avoid Falls
A few simple steps can help ensure you don’t experience a mishap
As many as one-third of seniors suffer a fall every year, according to the National Institutes of Health. But you don’t have to be one of them. Recommended precautions coupled with a few targeted exercises can lower your risk. Balance is a key element, along with awareness of the hazards that surround your daily life. Living upstairs and certain medications may increase your likelihood. These falls are particularly hazardous if there’s an associated hip injury.
Here’s how to avoid falls.
CONSULT A PRO
Talk about your fall risks with your doctor, since they’ll be intimately familiar with your prescription medications, related health conditions and history of injury. Joint pain, eye or ear disorders and shortness of breath can also be key indicators for potential falls. Medical professionals can offer helpful advice to help limit these risks. They might also adjust your prescriptions, in certain instances. Trainers can also help tailor a regimen just for you. Easier weight-bearing activity like climbing stairs or walking can actually slow down osteoporosis, a disease that weakens your bones.
Many older adults end up taking bigger risks because they’re afraid of falling. They may avoid shopping, walking or certain social activities in a misguided effort to keep themselves safe. But being inactive actually increases your chances of a fall. Any form of exercise where you’re moving your body can help lower these risks, but pay particular attention to balance routines that will provide a better defense against a fall by strengthening your core. Walking, jogging and swimming are some of the most convenient and easiest exercises, and they help with both coordination and balance. Your confidence will grow by leaps and bounds, while extending the period of time you can live independently.
Small changes can make a big difference when it comes to falls. Leg raises, done from behind a sturdy chair, strengthen your hips and thighs. The National Institutes of Health also recommend walking heel to toe and standing on one foot, in order to strengthen your balance. As you get stronger through a steady exercise program, begin using only one hand on the chair exercises. Then switch to only a single finger and continue working until you can complete this routine without any assistance from your hand.