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Exercise Regularly - Stay Fit and Healthy

This article is meant for informational purposes only. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your physician.


                                                             Dr. G. M. Siddiqui, M.D

                                                             CEO, Medical Services, Lifeline Healthcare.

Regular exercise and physical activity are very important to the health and abilities of older people. When older people lose their ability to do things on their own, it doesn't happen just because they have aged. More likely, it is because they have become inactive. Older inactive adults lose ground in four areas that are important for staying healthy and independent: endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility.

If possible, therefore, exercise programs should involve an aerobic exercise component, or stamina component, a strength training component, as well as balance, flexibility, and agility. Of course, not all of those have to be done on the same day.

Endurance exercises include aerobic exercises like walking, jogging, swimming, bicycling, increase your breathing and heart rate. They improve the health of your heart, lungs, and circulatory system. Having more endurance not only helps keep you healthier; it can also improve your stamina for the tasks you need to do to live and do things on your own -- climbing stairs and grocery shopping, for example.

Strength exercises build your muscles, but they do more than just make you stronger. They give you more strength to do things on your own. Even very small increases in muscle can make a big difference in ability, especially for frail people. Strength exercises also increase your metabolism, helping to keep your weight and blood sugar in check. Strength exercises also prevent osteoporosis.


Flexibility and balance inevitably decrease as we grow older. Connective tissue, elasticity decrease, and that sensory function responsible for balance also changes as we grow older. Individuals, who participate in stretching exercises, in balance activities, can significantly reduce that decline improving both static and dynamic balance. Static balance is your ability to balance in one place, and dynamic would be more being able to stay in control while moving, walking or some action, both of which are very important for everyday functioning. Balance exercises also help prevent a common problem in older adults: falls. Falling is a major cause of broken hips and other injuries that often lead to disability and loss of independence. Balance and flexibility exercises thus maintain what we call our functional fitness, or the ability to function in everyday life.

Now that you have read about all the benefits of exercise, we hope you are enthusiastic about getting started. However, it's important to start at a level you can manage and work your way up gradually. For one thing, if you do too much too quickly, you can damage your muscles and tissues, and that can keep you on the sidelines. For another, your enthusiasm needs to last a lifetime. The benefits of exercise and physical activity come from making them a permanent habit. Start with one or two types of exercises that you can manage and that you really can fit into your schedule, then add more as you adjust to ensure that you will stick with it. How much you exercise depends on you and on your unique situation.

Chronic Diseases: Not Necessarily a Barrier

Chronic diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, can't be cured, but usually can be controlled with medications and other treatments throughout a person's life. They are common among older adults. Exercise can improve some chronic conditions in older people. Check with your doctor to find out what exercises will help you and whether you should avoid certain activities.

Need Extra Motivation

Many older adults say that, while physical activity makes them feel better, a little extra motivation helps them get going. We have included this section on motivation because physical activity needs to be a regular, permanent habit to produce benefits. So does staying motivated! No matter how enthusiastic you are about exercise, there may be times when you need extra motivation.

When you need extra motivation, try the following:

Ask someone to be your exercise buddy. Having someone to exercise with helps      keep going.
Set a goal, and decide on a reward you will get when you reach it.
Give yourself physical activity homework assignments for the next day or the next     week.
Think of your exercise sessions as appointments, and mark them on your                   calendar.
Keep a record of what you do and of your progress.
• Plan ahead for travel, bad weather, and house guests. You can exercise indoors      when the weather is bad.
Think that, overall, you will benefit from them
 Include activities you enjoy
 Feel you can do the activities correctly and safely
 Can fit the activities into your daily schedule
• Feel that the activities don't impose financial or social costs you aren't willing to        take on
 Have few negative consequences from doing your activities (such as injury, lost         time)

General Guidelines for Exercise

Start at a level you can manage setting yourself up to succeed right from the start. Choose realistic goals, learn to do the exercises correctly and safely, and chart your progress to see your improvement.

Here are some points to keep in mind as you begin increasing your activity:
30 minutes per day five days a week of moderate aerobic exercise, like brisk walking, swimming, cycling is good enough to increase endurance effectively.

If you stop exercising for several weeks and then return, start out at about half the effort you were putting into it when you stopped, then gradually build back up. Some of the effects of endurance and muscle-building exercises deteriorate within 2 weeks if these activities are cut back substantially, and benefits may disappear altogether if they aren't done for 2 to 8 months.

When an exercise calls for you to bend forward, bend from the hips, not the waist. If you keep your entire back and shoulders straight as you bend forward, that will help ensure that you are bending the right way, from the hips Bending from the waist may cause spine fractures in some people with osteoporosis.

 It's possible to combine exercises. For example, regular stair-climbing sessions improve endurance and strengthen leg muscles at the same time.

How Hard Should you Exercise? : . It's different for different people. Start out with a schedule that your body can tolerate and that you think you really can manage, and build up from there. Listen to your body. The level of effort you feel you are putting into an activity is likely to agree with your level of exhaustion, that is how hard your exercise feels to you. While exercising, your pace should never make you feel dizzy, lightheaded, or nauseated, and you shouldn't feel pain.

Target Heart Rate (THR) is a common way of judging how hard you should exercise during endurance activities. It tells you how fast the average person should try to make his or her heart beat during endurance sessions. Going immediately from an inactive lifestyle to exercising at the rate shown in the chart is not advised. Instead you must gradually work your way up to it. Eventually, you can try to get your heart rate up to 70 to 85 percent of its maximum ability (the rate shown in the chart). Making it beat faster than this is not advised.


         Desired Range for Heart Rate During Exercise (beats per minute)