By Anna D. Banks, GCDF

The further along you are in years, the more vital it is to exercise. Exercising even moderately will help in reversing the effects of aging, as long as you are consistent about it. It is not merely about living longer, but about having a better quality of life, both today and tomorrow. By getting healthier and fitter, you will be able to continue doing the things that you have always found enjoyable, with less pains and aches, despite even being afflicted by arthritis.

A sedentary lifestyle is the only thing you need to avoid like the plague. You can take up almost any kind of physical activity to get started, although it must be reiterated that moderation is the keyword, especially when you begin or have some sort of debilitating ailment. What is the best type of exercise? Anything that you will be motivated to do regularly. The important thing is that the sooner you begin, the more benefits you will be able to derive from it. Although one cannot guarantee anything about life, but the odds are that you have fewer chances of being consigned to a nursing home for age-related factors if you begin exercising today.

Bear in mind, it is never too late to begin exercising. According to research conducted on elderly residents of a nursing home, it was found that people even in their 80s and 90s improved their muscular strength and balance dramatically after merely eight weeks of working out with weights.

In order to get the most beneficial results, you need to combine flexibility and strength exercises along with aerobics. These are the key elements of improving the functioning of your body physically, by increasing your flexibility, strength and endurance, as well as mentally, by increasing the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your brain.

Endurance or aerobic exercises include walking (with the goal of being able to cover a mile in around 17 minutes), running, jogging, cycling, hiking, dancing, swimming, lawn mowing, gardening, tennis, golf (as long as you walk and not use the cart), workouts on treadmills, climbers and stationary bikes. The duration of each session should be 30 minutes, and the minimum frequency, about three times in a week.

The examples of strength training exercises are lifting weights (take professional advice about the amount of weight to lift and the number of repetitions, when starting out), calisthenics (abdominal crunches, push-ups, etc.), and resistance exercises using bands and tubes. Strength training exercises should be done on the days when you do not do aerobics. You can do 8-10 types of exercises each workout session, which should be about 30 minutes in duration, and give yourself rest for at least 48 hours between each session.

Flexibility and stretching exercises should be done for about 10 minutes, ideally after every workout session, but you can do them every alternate day if you wish. Stretch each of your main groups of muscles, such as legs, arms, shoulders, trunk and back, each stretch lasting for about 30 seconds, with 3-4 repetitions for each group of muscles. It is important not to bounce or stretch to the point of feeling pain. Yoga has many excellent stretching exercises which are designed to improve the flexibility of your muscles and joints. Yoga also has a number of exercises that will improve your balance.

Physical activity can help you to improve your health and fitness tremendously. All you need to do is invest a minimum of 30 minutes of your time each day to exercising to prevent a wide variety of diseases and prolong your span of life. So go ahead, transform yourself from being a couch potato to an exercise aficionado, and reduce your risk of getting cardiovascular diseases, stroke, hypertension, and cancer, while you get fitter and stronger. By taking control of your health and fitness today, you will reap the benefits tomorrow.

Happy 1st day of Summer 2008!!!

© 2008 Anna D. Banks, GCDF

Author’s Note:
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