Check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program, especially if you’re obese or smoke or suffer from chronic illnesses such as diabetes or heart disease. Your doctor will suggest exercises best for you and encourage you to start a mild program to strengthen your body – without hurting you.
Walking is a wonderful way to get your heart pumping and build muscle tone. A short walk every day at a mild pace is a great way to start. As you feel stronger, you can always go a little farther and faster. Walking is better than running or jogging for older bones and joints. Make sure you wear a comfortable pair of shoes and socks to avoid blisters or rubbing of the skin. Wear a loose and comfortable pair of pants and a top and carry a light water bottle to avoid dehydration. For safety’s sake, a stroll with a friend is also a good idea. Chatting makes the time go by faster – and keeps you breathing.
As the warmer weather rolls in, get ready to pull on a swimsuit and take a swim. The low impact and high resistance make for exercise that’s easiest on the bones, joints and muscles. Even if you just float around and use your arms and legs to stay above the water, you’re using muscles.
If you do standing exercises and are concerned about balance, hold onto a table or a steady chair while doing your routine. As you progress and feel more stable, hang on by a finger or two but always exercise near a supporting object in case you fall or get dizzy.
Make sure you don’t hold your breath while you exercise, as this can affect your blood pressure. Use small, steady steps and rest if you get tired or dizzy. When walking, choose a path that provides a bench that can be used as a rest stop.
If you use a wheelchair or scooter, you can do chair exercises. The upper body also needs of stretching and strengthening. Small 1-pound weights or even a soup container make good weight-lifting tools. Never start off with too heavy a weight. One pound is more than ample – you’ll feel the difference in just a few weeks. Alternate every other day, giving the muscle time to rest, and then start working it again.
According to the National Institute on Aging, some form of exercise two to three times per week can greatly reduce the development of dementia and/or Alzheimer’s. The study began in 1994 and followed 1,740 people over 65 for 6.2 years until 2001. Researchers determined that the people in the study who exercised at least 15 minutes per day for three to four days a week reduced their risk of contracting these diseases by 32 percent.
Marla Luckhardt, a Discovery Bay resident and member of the East Contra Costa Senior Coalition, works with several local senior care and advocacy groups. To contact her, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.