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You can exercise at almost any age


Both my wife and I have heart problems and we do participate in exercise classes, but now we would like to join a support group for other active older adults who are living with a diagnosis of a chronic disease and want to stay fit.

A: You and your wife, older adults, are living proof that exercise and physical activity are good for you, no matter how old you are. In fact, staying active can help you:

• Keep and improve your strength so you can stay independent.

• Have more energy to do the things you want to do.

• Improve your balance.

• Prevent or delay some diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

• Perk up your mood and help reduce depression.

• Physical activity can and should be part of your everyday life.

For those who are not yet sure about what exercise will be a good fit, find things you like to do. Go for walks. Climb stairs. Ride a bike. Dance. Work around the house. Garden. Swim. Rake leaves.

Try different kinds of activities that keep you moving. Look for new ways to build physical activity into your daily routine.

Who should exercise?

Almost anyone, at any age, can do some type of physical activity. You can still exercise even if you have a long-term condition like heart disease or diabetes.

In fact, physical activity may help. For most older adults, brisk walking, riding a bike, swimming, weight lifting and gardening, are safe, especially if you build up slowly.

Check with your doctor if you are over 50 and you aren’t used to energetic activity. You also should check with your doctor if you have a chronic disease, such as diabetes or heart disease; any new symptom you haven’t discussed with your doctor; dizziness or shortness of breath; chest pain or the feeling that your heart is skipping, racing, or fluttering; blood clots; an infection or fever; unplanned weight loss; foot or ankle sores that won’t heal joint swelling; a bleeding or detached retina, eye; surgery, or laser treatment; a hernia or had hip surgery.

Safety tips

Here are some things you can do to make sure you are exercising safely:

• Start slowly, especially if you haven’t been active for a long time.

• Little by little build up your activities and how hard you work at them.

• Don’t hold your breath during strength exercises. That could cause changes in your blood pressure. It may seem strange at first, but the rule is to breathe out as you lift something; breathe in as you relax.

• Use safety equipment. For example, wear a helmet for bike riding or the right shoes for walking or jogging.

Unless your doctor has asked you to limit fluids, be sure to drink plenty when you are doing activities. Many older adults don’t feel thirsty even if their body needs fluids.

Always bend forward from the hips, not the waist. If you keep your back straight, you’re probably bending the right way. If your back “humps,” that’s probably wrong. Warm up your muscles before you stretch. Try walking and light arm pumping first.

Exercise should not hurt or make you feel really tired. You might feel some soreness, a little discomfort, or a bit weary, but you should not feel pain.

In fact, in many ways, being active will probably make you feel better.

How to find out more

Pima Council on Aging offers a series of evidence-based health promotion classes. Visit online at pcoa.org for the Arizona Living Well classes, including current class enrollment for new sessions.

Today’s questions is answered by Adina Wingate, PCOA director of public relations, using materials provided by the National Institute on Aging. Send questions for PCOA to generations@tucsoncitizen.com

Pima Council on Aging

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