Think you’re too old to exercise?

Maybe in days gone by you had the energy and motivation to exercise. You may have even been a hockey player or marathon runner. But for whatever reason, exercise fell by the wayside over the years and you slowly became more and more inactive. And your health has suffered from it.

The good news is that it’s never too late to start exercising for the first time or to get back into it. Those who’ve been inactive for years can still improve their health with regular exercise – even you!

Even if you’re enjoying your silver or golden years, you can get started exercising today with these tips.

Health and fitness experts agree – taking up exercise in your 60s and 70s is essential to lowering health risks and improving one’s quality of life. As far as your physical health goes, exercise helps prevent stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancers and diabetes. One study showed that sedentary older women who started walking just one mile a day cut their risk of cancer in half and prolonged their lives by years. The health benefits of new exercise were almost as effective as if the women had been exercising for years.

Exercise also works to keep your mind healthy by reducing your risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression. At the same time, it reduces stress and puts you in a better mood.

As an added perk, regular physical activity enables you to maintain your independence for longer, improves your balance and strengthens your muscles. Everyday activities such as bathing, cleaning and dressing are easier for those who exercise regularly. So if you enjoy living at your own place on your own terms, you’ll need to stay fit to make it happen.

As the years go by and you become less active, your body isn’t able to do the things it used to do so easily. Walking up stairs, cleaning the house, and simple tasks like tying your shoes become more difficult. These changes in physical abilities can lead to discouragement.

Because of this, many older folks are fearful of exercise, thinking they may get injured or that it’ll be too hard. The reality, however, is that sitting on the couch is what’s risky and damaging to your health.

Those who are 65 years or older and are thinking of getting back into exercise will need to head to a medical professional first. There, you can get advice on the best types of exercise for any pre-existing health conditions you may have. For example, if you suffer from arthritis or bad knees, swimming is a good alternative.

When getting started, you’ll want to take it easy. Overdoing it too soon can cause soreness, injury, or burnout. Aim for 150 minutes of exercise each week, but if you’ve been inactive for more than a few months, start with just a few minutes a day and work your way up to the recommended amount. Exercise at an intensity you can still carry on a conversation, and most importantly, listen to your body. It’ll let you know when it needs to slow down.

Getting back into the swing of exercise can be intimidating. A balanced exercise program will include cardio, strength training, flexibility and balance exercises. Three days a week do cardio exercise (walking, swimming, gardening or cycling). Every other day include strength-training activities that include free weights, resistance bands or body-weight exercises. Incorporate stretches and balance activities into your routine.

Don’t wait another day. Enjoy your latter years and get more of them with exercise.

Jack Wheeler is a personal trainer and owner of 360 Fitness in Red Deer.

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