We all know we should exercise more.  But gym memberships can be expensive, and it can be hard to work up the motivation to actually go.  Experts agree that regular exercise is especially important for seniors.  Osteoporosis and even some medications can make bones brittle, making any fall a potential broken bone.  Muscles lose their strength if not used, and overall endurance decreases.  There are ways to stay fit without spending a lot or making a big time commitment.  Always check with your doctor, and make sure you follow any restrictions your doctor gives you.  There are lots of things you can do in your own home to increase your level of fitness and activity, or you can get out and walk at a nearby park or school.

It can be helpful to enlist your spouse or friends to exercise with you.  Going for a walk, working in the garden, even dancing can be fun and a great way to stay fit.  Exercise doesn’t have to be boring.  There are lots of opportunities throughout the day to get in a quick walk, do some stretches while folding laundry, or even put on some music and dance in your living room.  The more variety you can fit in, the better.  The idea is to get your heart rate up, get the blood flowing, and get some muscle resistance by lifting objects or using an exercise band.  Check with your local senior center, often there are group activities or fitness classes that can be more fun than a boring old workout.  Lots of seniors enjoy walking around the mall in the morning, and doing a bit of window shopping in the process. You’ll soon recognize other seniors, and can strike up a conversation, making new friends in the process.

One key component of any fitness program, especially for seniors, is weight training.  This doesn’t mean lifting barbells or bench pressing 100 pounds!  Look around your home.  There are lots of things you can use.  It doesn’t have to be heavy.  A milk jug or bottle of laundry detergent will work just fine. All that’s necessary is that it takes a bit of muscle to lift it, and some repetitions.  Start slow.  It’s not a race or competition.  Resistance or weight training builds muscle attachments, and strengthens bones and ligaments.  It can help ease the pain and stiffness of arthritis, giving you more mobility and endurance.

Swimming can be great for mind and body.  The water’s buoyancy takes the pressure off your joints, letting you move more freely.  Using various swimming strokes builds strength as well as flexibility, and works different muscle groups.  While you may not have a pool at home, most gyms and even some senior or community centers have them.  An indoor pool can be used year-round, and many have dedicated hours for swimming laps.

Stretching is a relaxing way to get up in the morning, and get ready for bed at night.  Be gentle, you don’t ever want to get to the point of pain.  But the light pulling sensation from stretching can feel good and increase the blood supply to muscles and joints, keeping you flexible and resilient.  Most seniors want to be healthy and independent.  Staying active can make you feel better and improve your health.  Studies have shown that physical activity also has a big impact on your mental health.  The less you do, the less you can do, which can lead to depression and a loss of interest in things you previously enjoyed.

Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore, and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time or money.  Simple exercises and stretching can be done at home. Walking and gardening can be fun and satisfying. Swimming and dancing can give you a sense of well-being.  Above all, find something you enjoy doing. When you don’t have to force yourself to do something, you’re more likely to actually do it. Get friends and family involved, get some fresh air, and get moving!

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