Older Adults And That Resolution To Exercise: Can It Succeed?
You’ll hear it all the time, that resolution to do more exercise with the new year. People may start out the first week, but then it’s back to old habits of a sedentary life. TV may be more tempting than putting on those walking shoes, if they even have the shoes. And the excuses are rampant: it’s too cold, it’s too hot, I don’t have time, or I just don’t feel like it. What is this doing to our elders’ health?
In short, the sedentary lifestyle is seriously damaging people’s chances for a longer, healthier life. And some say they don’t care, they’ll accept living a shorter life if they don’t really have to get off the couch. But it’s not about how long American elders live, it about how they live and how many chronic health conditions and disabilities they will accept in exchange for not getting up and moving more. Multiple chronic conditions include obesity, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure and more. Living with those conditions is expensive and requires a lot of medications and doctor visits. No one wants that. But prevention takes motivation.
How Healthy Are Boomers?
According to a research study in JAMA Internal Medicine going back 10 years, we Boomers are not as healthy as we wish we were. Over half of the study participants did not do any regular exercise at all. The National Institute on Aging has clear recommendations for seniors. They say we should all get 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity exercise plus twice a week muscle strengthening work. Why don’t folks do it, when all authorities say we should?
As an active exerciser myself in my 70s, I often wonder why my age-mates spend so much time sitting and so little time moving their bodies. I know one factor: exercise requires effort! We have to put out the energy to get going. We have to do it when we don’t feel like it. We have to do it to prevent dementia, as we know that vigorous exercise protects our brains as well as the rest of our bodies. We need to do it to stave off those unpleasant chronic conditions.
YouTube to the Rescue
How much work is it? Not all that much, in my opinion. There are fairly easy and even fun ways to get exercise. For those with aging parents who have not gotten started with exercise, there are helpful videos to demonstrate what one can do without leaving the house. Find some videos and play them for your aging loved ones. (for yourself too!) The National Institute on Aging created Go4Life, with workouts on YouTube, which is to encourage older adults to exercise. Free, 10 or 15 minute, at home video-guided programs are a great start.
If you want your aging parent to get moving, a desire I hear often at AgingParents.com, where I consult with families, you can show them what to do or do some of it with them. Your support, encouragement and perhaps participation can be very helpful to the reluctant elder. Anything is better than nothing! If you watch a video with your elderly Mom or Dad and offer to do the routine with them, it’s a fine way to connect and help both of you. Disabled parent? Many exercises can be done while sitting in a chair.
- Exercise does take effort but not enormous effort. When we do it, we are trading better aging for sitting on the couch and inviting chronic health problems. The effort is well worth it!
- It’s more fun to exercise with someone than all alone. If you have a partner, a group, or even a regular video exercise group, that’s helpful for motivation.
- Get the right basic clothes and shoes. It’s not expensive to shop at a discount store for essential walking shoes, some loose pants, shirts and hat and jacket.
- If you’re not sure what to do to start, check out the Go4Life videos and try a 10 or 15 minute home workout.
- My favorite go-to when no other strenuous options are available or appealing— just walk. Brisk is best, falling into the “moderate” category, great for heart health. In bad weather, you can climb stairs, walk in a mall or do any length video with or without equipment, like light dumbells.
Changing your no-exercise habits is not so easy but I don’t hear anyone tell me that they’re sorry they started an exercise habit. It feels great to be more fit. It can lift your mood, help control weight, and be the start on a road to the healthiest kind of aging.
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