While reducing our calorie intake and ensuring that what we do consume is healthy, this alone is not enough to improve and maintain good health in our senior years. “Calories out” is the other half of the equation .
Exercise is very important for our health. Not just physical health but mental health. Most of us stopped exercising in our teens or 20s when we realized that we were never going to be selected for the olympics or the state squad in any sporting activity.
We may never be the senior athlete of the year, although there are some amazing veteran sports people around. Check out the Youtube video of the “Age of Champions” or get the whole DVD. The 100 year old tennis player is amazing and plans to beat the 94 year old “young’n” in their next match.
For each of you, ask yourself the question, ” What do I enjoy doing”? It may be dancing, walking, swimming, fishing or shopping. Whatever activity you enjoy, find the most active way to do it. Shopping Malls can be quite large, they are airconditioned and great for activity even in extreme weather. Walking briskly around a mall several times can be quite challenging, particularly if you have joint problems. It is also a pleasant social environment in which to increase your activity. Choose the stairs, rather than the escalator as this uses more energy and builds more muscle. Try belly dancing or water aerobics (if you are not a swimmer). Whatever you do just get active and increase the activity steadily. A gym membership is not essential, although some seniors find the support and encouragement by the staff give them a boost.
Exercise, particularly learning a new skill, is also valuable for maintaining our mental sharpness. It is also a great antidepressant and anxiety reducer.
It is important to check with your doctor if there are any restrictions to what you are able to safely do. In Australia, Medicare, the government basic health system, allows for 5 sessions a year of help from an allied health professional. This group includes Exercise Physiologists who can help you with a suitable exercise program and supervise you to ensure that you are doing it correctly and safely.
Reducing calorie intake and increasing activity in your life leads to better physical health as well as mental alertness and wellbeing, while preventing falls because of wasted muscles which lead to poor balances and slow responses. I always remember my very active father at the age of 95 skipping across rocks, balancing on one foot to show his graddaughter an interesting geological feature. He worked as a farmer until the age of 100. Although he lived to 103, lack of physical activity in his latter years, left him wheelchair bound.
Steady As She Goes
Regular, steady exercise and activity is important, because unlike in our younger years, we can’t play tennis or race around a squash court once a week, without ending up crippled with pain and spasms from torn muscles and exhausted for several days. Exercising 3-4 times per week maintains your fitness, muscle bulk and strength.
The motto to remember is “Use It (regularly) Or Lose It”