“Too old to get in shape?”

There are 5 key elements to keeping our bodies in tip top shape as we get older.

  • Flexibility
  • Cardio
  • Strength
  • Balance
  • Mental health

Keeping fit also has other added benefits like:

  • Improving mental health
  • Lowering stress
  • Better quality of sleep
  • Lowering Blood Pressure
  • Reducing weight
  • Boosting energy

Just to name a few…

It’s also quite obvious by now that staying fit contributes to our longevity and will hopefully keep us around a good while longer.

Though there’s many excuses for “not exercising”, none of them will give you the cost benefits associated with sticking to a fitter lifestyle.

Am I too old to start exercising you ask?

You’re never too old to exercise, you can still start exercising even if you are in your 70’s or 80’s. Exercising can reverse the effects of non-exercising. You will see how much better you will feel when you incorporate exercise into your life.

Get your Doctor’s opinion and approval.

Of course before starting any exercise program it’s important to talk to your doctor first, explain what you plan to do and get his opinion, especially if you have a preexisting condition. Ask if there are any activities you should avoid.

Where you begin will depend on what kind of shape you are currently in and/or if you have any disability or condition that you need to work with.

If you are inactive, the key is to start slow and build up your stamina gradually. We have to listen to our bodies and know when it’s time to stop and give it a rest.

Starting and maintaining an exercise regime can be challenging  for any age.

People often ask me “do you enjoy exercising”? I’d like to say “yes, I do”…but that wouldn’t be totally honest. 

Newton’s First Law of Motion states, “A body in motion tends to stay in motion, and a body at rest tends to stay at rest”. I’m not crazy about exercising, the only time I feel great about exercising is when I’m finished doing it.

Am I glad that I do exercise? 100%, it’s a no brainer to me. It’s kind of like an investment. Do I want to spend that $1000? Hell yeah!

But if I invest it, when I really need it, I’ll hope to have gained some “interest” and will have more to spend.

It’s like I’m investing on “me” with exercise.

So where to begin?

When you exercise, are you working hard or hardly working? Making sure you’re not pushing too hard or too little. 

How hard should I exercise?

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends these exercise guidelines for most healthy adults:

  • Aerobic activity. Get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity — such as brisk walking, swimming or mowing the lawn — or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity — such as running or aerobic dancing. You can also do a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. It’s best to do this over the course of a week. You can achieve more health benefits if you ramp up your exercise to 300 minutes or more of moderate aerobic activity a week.
    Even small amounts of physical activity are helpful, and accumulated activity throughout the day adds up to provide health benefits.
  • Strength training. Do strength training for all major muscle groups at least twice a week. Consider free weights, weight machines or activities that use your own body weight — such as rock climbing or heavy gardening. Or try squats, planks or lunges. Aim to do a single set of each exercise, using a weight or resistance level heavy enough to tire your muscles after about 12 to 15 repetitions.

Your exercise intensity must generally be at a moderate or vigorous level for maximum benefit. For weight loss, the more intense or longer your activity, the more calories you burn.

Remember not to push yourself too hard or too fast. Fitness is a lifetime commitment.

There are two basic ways to measure exercise intensity:

  • How you feel while you are exercising, your perceived exertion. For example, what feels to you like a hard run can feel like an easy workout to someone who’s more fit.
  • Your heart rate. Your heart rate offers a more objective look at exercise intensity. In general, the higher your heart rate during physical activity, the higher the exercise intensity.

I have always found that having a heart monitor watch, like a FITBIT , really helps keep me in a range I want to be.

Things to watch out for are pushing yourself too hard and too often. If you are short of breath, are in pain or can’t work out as long as you’d planned, your exercise intensity is probably higher than your fitness level allows. Back off a bit and build intensity gradually.

You can calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. For example, if you’re 65 years old, subtract 65 from 220 to get a maximum heart rate of 155. This is the average maximum number of times your heart should beat per minute during exercise.

Once you know your maximum heart rate, you can calculate your desired target heart rate zone — the level at which your heart is being exercised and conditioned but not overworked.

The American Heart Association generally recommends a target heart rate of:

  • Moderate exercise intensity: 50% to about 70% of your maximum heart rate
  • Vigorous exercise intensity: 70% to about 85% of your maximum heart rate

If you haven’t worked out for a while then aim for the lower HR zone. If you are fit then aim for the higher HR zone. Again, a heart rate monitor works great for tracking your HR zone.

Also note that several types of medications, including some medications to lower blood pressure, can lower your maximum heart rate, and then lower your target heart rate zone. Ask your doctor if you need to use a lower target heart rate zone because of any of your medications or medical conditions.

Try to pick an exercise that you think you would like to do, and slowly build up your stamina. The most important thing is to do it regularly, try to build up to 3-5 times a week.

In future posts I’ll be making suggestions on great exercise routines for all levels of fitness that will help keep you motivated and help keep you active and healthy.

Time to get off the couch my fellow retirees, and start living!

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