By: Tia Fischl, Public Relations Assistant for KADAT Partners LLC dba Comfort Keepers
With spring quickly approaching, it’s a perfect time to get outside and enjoy the warm weather-go for a walk, a swim, a jog-anything to get you out of the house and into the sun.
However, as we age, it seems to become increasingly difficult to get active and stay active. That’s why May 25 is National Senior Health and Fitness Day.
While people of all ages should make living a healthy lifestyle a priority, it is increasingly important for senior citizens to engage in healthy nutrition and fitness.
Being regularly active provides several health benefits, which will allow seniors and older adults to live longer and maintain their independence longer.
According to a recent article published by Helpguide.org, daily exercise can help older adults maintain or lose weight, reduce the impact of illness and chronic disease, enhance mobility, flexibility and balance, improve sleep, boost mood and self-confidence, benefit brain health, help fight shortness of breath, prevent bone mass loss, increase muscle mass, and help reduce the risk of falling.
Being physically active not only produces these benefits, but being inactive can cause several unwanted side effects.
According to an article in NIH Senior Health, some people may be afraid that exercise will hurt them; however, “studies show that ‘taking it easy’ is risky.
For the most part, when older people lose their ability to do things on their own, it doesn’t happen just because they’ve aged. It’s usually because they’re not active.
Lack of physical activity also can lead to more visits to the doctor, more hospitalizations, and more use of medicines for a variety of illnesses.” NIH Senior Health also reported that “scientists have found that staying physically active and exercising regularly can help prevent or delay many diseases and disabilities.
In some cases, exercise is an effective treatment for many chronic conditions.” If you are afraid of getting hurt exercising alone at home, an in-home care company, like Comfort Keepers, can come in and help you exercise safely.
One of the most difficult aspects seniors and older adults face when beginning to exercise is finding the motivation to stay with it long enough to see results.
Helpguide.org stresses the importance of committing to a schedule, because it takes about three to four weeks for it to become habit. There are several ways to make it through those first few weeks though.
First, try making it enjoyable: take a nature walk through S.B. Elliott State Park or one of the other state parks in Clearfield County instead of just walking around the block.
You could also try signing up for one of Clearfield Aquatic Center’s senior classes with a friend or making a new friend there, which will help give you additional support and make it easier to stick with a routine. If you cannot drive Comfort Keepers, or other in-home care companies can assist with rides to and from fitness classes.
Getting in shape to meet your final goal can take a while, and some people may feel discouraged because they feel like they aren’t seeing “real results.”
However, focusing on short term goals, like sleeping better, feeling less stressed out, or being able to work out for a certain amount of time without feeling winded can help you stay motivated to complete your long term goals.
Keeping a fitness log can also help by allowing you to look back and see how far you’ve come already, which will make your future goals seem more attainable. Reading health magazines can be a great motivator because it can help to remind you how important being healthy is and all the benefits you can have by living a healthy lifestyle.
Just remember to listen to your body. Helpguide.org warns that you should stop exercising and call a doctor if you feel dizzy, short of breath, have chest pain, are breaking out in a cold sweat, or are experiencing pain.
If you’re feeling sore or sick, don’t feel bad about skipping a day or cutting your exercise short for the day. While you shouldn’t make this a habit, it’s better to cut your exercise short one day rather than pushing yourself too hard and getting injured.
It is also important to get medical clearance from a doctor, who may also be able to advise what activities and exercises would be beneficial as well as what could be harmful. If you feel like you’re too frail or it’s too late to start exercising, you’re in luck.
It’s never too late to start exercising. Working out in small increments, a couple times a day, or going to one fitness class a week can still produce favorable results.
A Comfort Keepers caregiver, can remind you to follow your exercise routine, take you to doctor appointments and fitness classes, and help you do exercises at home. They can also be there to help prepare healthy meals and monitor you while exercising to ensure you aren’t over exerting yourself.
There are several ways seniors can get active. Walking, senior fitness classes, senior sports, or water aerobics are among the most popular ways, but there are opportunities everywhere.
Simple tasks like walking the dog, parking at the far end of the parking lot, tending to the garden, and taking the stairs instead of an elevator can help get you started on your path to a healthier life.
For those who are chair-bound, Helpguide.org says that there are still ample opportunities to improve their fitness. Free weights or anything weighed in your house that can fit into your hands (like soup cans) can be used to build arm strength. Resistance bands are also a great way to exercise, as there are a variety of different exercises you can do with them, such as, pull-downs, shoulder rotations, and arm and leg-extensions.
There are also pool-therapy programs designed for seniors in wheelchairs as well as wheelchair-friendly exercise equipment. If you don’t have access to special equipment or pool-therapy classes, something as simple as rapid leg lifts or sitting pushups can raise your heartbeat and get you working.
Clearfield County has many nature walks, gyms, and fitness classes to help seniors and older adults get active. Exercising never has to cost a lot.
In fact, there are plenty of ways to exercise without spending a dime. Helpguide.org suggests doing neck rolls and light stretching while watching TV, using inexpensive resistance bands, renting exercise videos from the library, mowing the lawn, raking leaves, shoveling snow, weeding the garden, climbing stairs, walking in a local park or nature trail, and playing with grandkids or pets as inexpensive or free exercising options.
Creating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be difficult, but with some motivation and a little help, it’s a realistic goal. Even those who feel they are already too frail to exercise can achieve higher levels of fitness with the help of a Comfort Keeper.
Now is a better time than ever to dedicate yourself to a good nutrition and regular exercise, so make this May 25 the start of your healthier lifestyle.
The Women’s Health Task Force is a small group volunteering their time to educate women and families on important health issues. If you have an interest in health, work in a caring profession, or just want to volunteer with other sincere women, consider attending our planning meetings. These meetings are held the first Thursday of each month beginning at 12 p.m.
Our next meeting will be held on Thursday, June 2 at Clearfield County Career & Technology Center. All interested persons are encouraged to attend. Additional information is available by calling Robin Kuleck, Penn State Extension, at 8140765-7878 Ext. 2. Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/whtfclearfieldcounty.