Being active, avoiding inactivity, preventing disease and managing stress are four good ways to maximize your health, ward off infection and boost your mood. But we should take a little bit closer look at specific ways seniors can stay active. It's easy to simply sit there and say to yourself, "I need to do something," but for many, including seniors, people may not know exactly what will help, or more important, what they are capable of doing to make an impact. Making exercise a lifelong habit is the best way to do this. Once you can do the same thing for a week or two, it starts to become part of you. If you can stick with a routine for at least six months, it's a good sign that you're on your way to making physical activity a regular habit. The National Institute of Health provides these six tips to help seniors make exercising everyday like the back of your hand:
- Make it a priority. We lead active, busy lives, and it's easy to put working out on the back burner. Make it a point to include physical activities in what you do throughout the day. Try being active first thing in the morning before you get busy. Think of this time as a special appointment, and mark it on the calendar.
- Make it easy. If it's difficult, costs too much, or is too inconvenient, you probably won't do it. If it's easy, you will want to do it. Put your 2-pound weights next to your easy chair so you can do some lifting while watching TV. Walk up and down the soccer field during your grandchild's game. Do more of what you already like and know how to do. If shopping is your foray, walk the entire mall or weave in and out of every aisle in the grocery store. This may not seem like much, but it adds up. Lastly, join a gym or fitness center that's close to home. Try to walk there.
- Make it safe. Exercise and moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, are safe for almost all older adults. However, preventing injury is key, especially if you're just beginning to work out. Talk to your doctor to make sure you can exercise if you have a long-standing medical issue. If you feel minor discomfort when you start exerting yourself, this should go away as your body adapts to your new routine. It's important to remember that if you feel sick or have strong pain, stop immediately.
- Make it social. Work out with a good friend or family member, even your partner. Many people agree that an "exercise buddy" keeps them going. Take a yoga class with a neighbor. If you don't already have an exercise partner, find one my joining a walking club at your local mall or an exercise class at a nearby senior center. You can even walk during lunch with a co-worker.
- Make it interesting and fun. Don't be afraid to pick up the pace if you're finding yourself in a groove. If you love the outdoors, try biking, fishing, jogging or hiking. Listen to music on your phone or iPad, heck even a CD, while walking or doing various activities in your yard. Most people tend to focus on one activity or type of exercise and think they're doing enough. The goal is to be creative and choose exercises from each of the four categories - endurance, strength, balance and flexibility. Mixing it up with give you more benefits along with prevent injury and monotony.
- Make exercise an active decision. Seize opportunities to multi-task in everything you do. When unloading groceries, lift the milk carton a few time before putting it away. When shopping, build your endurance by parking the car at the far end of the parking lot and walking quickly to the store. Also, get off the bus one or two stops earlier than usual. Instead of calling or e-mailing a co-worker, do it in person and take the stairs. While waiting in line, practice balance by standing on one foot for a few seconds, then the other. Nobody will notice, and it will pay off in the end.