Thanks to the baby boomers, who began turning 65 in 2011, the population of older Americans is expanding. By 2030, one in five Americans will be a senior citizen, nearly double the 12 percent in 2000, according to “The State of Aging and Health in America,” a 2013 special report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Meanwhile, a recent survey conducted by the American Physical Therapy Association, in conjunction with the Huffington Post, revealed the “Top 10 Fittest Baby Boomer Cities in America”
I’m proud to say that at age 61 and a resident of Denver, I’m a member of both groups — a baby boomer fitness professional in one of the top 10 fittest baby boomer cities.
But we can do better. It’s time for us to face the reality of our aging process and take control of the quality of our lives.
Committing to a routine of physical activity is one of the healthiest decisions you can make. Before you get moving, though, consider how best to be safe.
• Get medical clearance from your doctor before starting an exercise program, especially if you have a pre-existing condition. Ask if there are any activities you should avoid.
• Consider health concerns. Keep in mind how your ongoing health problems affect your workouts. For example, diabetics may need to adjust the timing of medication and meal plans when setting an exercise schedule. Above all, if something feels wrong, such as sharp pain or unusual shortness of breath, simply stop. You may need to scale back or try another activity.
• Start slow. If you haven’t been active in a while, it can be harmful to go “all out.” Instead, build up your exercise program little by little. Try spacing workouts in ten-minute increments twice a day. Or try just one class each week. Prevent crash-and-burn fatigue by warming up, cooling down, and keeping water handy.
• Commit to an exercise schedule for at least 3 or 4 weeks so that it becomes habit, and force yourself to stick with it.
• Stay motivated by focusing on short-term goals, such as improving your mood and energy levels and reducing stress, rather than goals such as weight loss, which can take longer to achieve.
• Recognize problems. Exercise should never hurt or make you feel lousy. Stop exercising immediately and call your doctor if you feel dizzy or short of breath, develop chest pain or pressure, break out in a cold sweat, or experience pain. Also stop if a joint is red, swollen, or tender to touch.
As you age, regular exercise is more important than ever to your body and mind.
Physical health benefits of exercise and fitness for those over age 50
• Exercise helps older adults maintain or lose weight. As metabolism naturally slows with age, maintaining a healthy weight is a challenge. Exercise helps increase metabolism and builds muscle mass, helping to burn more calories. When your body reaches a healthy weight, your overall wellness will improve.
• Exercise reduces the impact of illness and chronic disease.Among the many benefits of exercise for adults over 50 include improved immune function, better heart health and blood pressure, better bone density, and better digestive functioning. People who exercise also have a lowered risk of several chronic conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis, and colon cancer.
• Exercise enhances mobility, flexibility and balance in adults over 50. Exercise improves your strength, flexibility and posture, which in turn will help with balance, coordination, and reducing the risk of falls. Strength training also helps alleviate the symptoms of chronic conditions such as arthritis.