Importance of Fitness at All Ages

 05/06/2013 | 01:38 PM 

— InnovAge Offers Tips for Seniors to Stay Active —

Seniors participate in an exercise session at InnovAge

Seniors participate in an exercise session at InnovAge.
Barry Staver Photography

DENVER – With more hours of daylight and warmer temperatures on the horizon, the approaching spring and summer months can provide a number of opportunities to engage in outdoor recreation, making staying in shape fun and even social – at all ages.

The importance of making exercise a part of a healthy lifestyle is not limited to any particular age group or skill level. In fact, according to the experts at InnovAge – a nonprofit organization that serves as the comprehensive resource for Colorado’s aging population – physical activity provides unique benefits for seniors.

According to Jeff Lantz, physical therapist with InnovAge Greater Colorado PACE – an InnvoAge program that provides and coordinates health care, home care and support to help many aging individuals to continue to live in their communities with dignity and independence active – seniors are also more likely to experience mental benefits. A 2004 study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that long-term physical activity, including walking, is associated with significantly better cognitive function and less cognitive decline in women between the ages of 70 and 81. Additionally, a 2011 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that Tai Chi provided clear mental health benefits, helped prevent falls and increased balance and coordination in older adults.

Because engaging in physical activity can become increasingly difficult with age, many seniors move more slowly and even experience pain during exercise, which often makes them reluctant to establish or return to a regular routine. It is important to check with your physician and/or medical team before starting a new exercise regimen to ensure your health and safety.

“It’s a common misconception among seniors that if certain activities aren’t as easy as they used to be, they should be avoided altogether,” said Lantz. “The truth is that while not all activities are appropriate for everyone, there are still many forms of exercise that can benefit each person individually. We encourage older individuals to find what works for them.”

In order for anyone, regardless of age, to experience the benefits of physical activity, InnovAge suggests the follows tips.

  • Make time in your schedule. “Find time to exercise every day by incorporating it into your existing routine,” said Lantz. “Take a few minutes before or after meals or even during television commercials.”
  • Start slow. Although the expression “no pain, no gain” may sound all too familiar, the idea that exercise needs to be painful to be effective is a myth. “If something feels like work from the start, it’s easier to get discouraged,” said Lantz. “Avoid strenuous activity that makes you want to quit before you even begin.”
  • Have reachable goals and track your progress. Keeping a calendar on the refrigerator and crossing off each day of exercise establishes a pattern of behavior and allows you to see how far you’ve come.
  •  Find an exercise partner. Friends, family members and neighbors can help with motivation and consistency.
  • Make it fun. Walks in the park, trips to the mall, new hobbies and group classes at a local community center are all ways to stay active and engaged.
  • Reward yourself when you reach your goals. “Most activities are more enjoyable with positive reinforcement,” said Lantz. “We tend to be happier and more motivated when we’re looking forward to something.”
  • Always consult with your health professional. Your physical therapist, recreational therapist or doctor can advise on the most appropriate forms of exercise to meet your goals and ensure safety.

InnovAge is here to help seniors and caregivers, alike. InnovAge provides a full spectrum of services to enable older adults to live independently in their homes and communities. InnovAge offers home care services, healthcare and day programs, care management and memory loss programs. For more information about InnovAge services in your area, please visit www.MyInnovAge.org  or call toll free at 888-992-4464.

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