Health & Exercise

~ By Mike Manzi ~

What comes to mind when you hear the word fitness?  To some, it might mean running a seven-minute mile.  To others, it might mean bench-pressing 200 pounds.  It’s a very subjective word – ask ten different people what fitness means to them, and you’ll probably get ten different answers.

Working as a personal trainer for the better part of a decade, I’ve experienced numerous different ideas of what fitness is – from competing in a bodybuilding show, to just being able to climb the stairs without getting winded.

The simple truth is, there is no right or wrong answer to the question of what is fitness?  Since the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines fitness as “the quality or state of being fit,” we’ll have to come up with our own answers.

To me, fitness is more of a feeling.  It might be the ability to accomplish some­thing you weren’t able to do before, such as completing a resistance exercise with more weight or repetitions than you were previously able to do.  Or, it could be something as simple as completing your household chores without needing to stop for a break.

We’re at a point in time when fitness has never been more important for older adults.  According to the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics, it’s estimated that 87 million people (or 21% of the U.S. population) will be 65 years or older by the middle of this century.

Due to this upward trend in the average age, we’re now faced with dealing with issues such as mortality, longevity, and quality of life.  However, in recent years, it’s been widely proven that exercise for older adults can both improve – and maintain – functional independence.

Now, here are a few tips on how to best get started on an exercise program:

Start Slowly

Make sure to consult with a medical professional before embarking on your exercise program.  Your doctor can give you the best idea of what types of activi­ties you should be doing, and what would be best to avoid.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends 150 minutes of moder­ate-intensity cardiovascular activity per week.  Cardiovascular exercise could be something as simple as a brisk walk, which breaks down to 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

There are also numerous activities not considered “exercise” in the truest sense of the word that can help us improve our overall level of fitness.

Dancing, parking further away, walking instead of driving, playing with your grandchil­dren, gardening, preparing a meal, volunteering – these are what the American Heart Association refers to as NEAT, or “Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis,” or in lay terms, “daily activities that burn lots of calories.”  It’s been shown that obese adults sit an average of 2.5 hours more per day than their leaner counter­parts, so, incorporating a few of these activities in your daily life will help raise your fitness level.


Walking is the easiest, safest, and most accessible form of exercise, period.

One of the best ways to raise your fitness level by walking is investing in a pedometer.  Most models are affordable and readily available at your local sporting goods store.

Set a goal for yourself of walking around 10,000 steps a day.  For the aver­age person, this equates to about five miles.  If your daily activities don’t take you that far away from home, make it a point once a day to take a walk around a nearby park, or if the weather is bad, your local mall.  Depending on your bodyweight, walking 10,000 steps can burn anywhere from 250 to 600 calories a day!

It would also be wise to invest in a comfortable pair of shoes.  When picking a shoe, fit is always the most important consideration.  Your shoe should be snug – not tight – with enough room to wiggle your toes.

Join a Gym

Joining a gym now is a far less intimidating experience than it has been in years past.  Most gyms these days are very accessible and accommodating, no matter your age or ability level.

One perk of obtaining a gym membership is that most health clubs now offer a complimentary session with a personal trainer upon your joining.  A trainer can best help you identify your starting point, and quickly – and safely – get you moving in the right direction.

While incorporating weight training into your fitness regimen will help improve your overall strength, posture, and balance, it also increases bone den­sity, which reduces risk factors for osteoporosis and the prevalence of arthri­tis.  Along with the recommended amounts of cardiovascular exercise, the CDC also advises at least two days a week of muscle strengthening activities.

Many larger clubs that offer access to a pool will also feature aquatic classes, which are another great way to start. These classes can improve both cardiovas­cular and muscular strength without placing added stress on the joints.

Finally, many healthcare providers now offer access to programs such as Silver Sneakers© for people who are eligible for Medicare.  This program may not only help you receive a health club membership covered by your health insurance, but also offer complimentary conditioning classes geared specifically toward older adults.

Hopefully by now, you’ve been able to get an idea of what fitness means to you.  I’ve covered a few in this article, but there are so many more ways out there for you to get – and stay – in shape. All that’s left now is for you to get out there and find your fitness.  And remember, it’s never too late!

Mike Manzi is a Certified Personal Trainer at LoHi Athletic Club in Denver, Colorado.  Active in the fitness industry since 2005, Mike’s work has also been featured in 5280 Magazine, as well as on Denver’s Channel 2 News.

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