Everyone knows that exercise is good for the human primate. Yet only a very small percentage of humans – around 2% at the most – like exercise, and the statistics show that no more than 30% of humans get enough of it to prevent ill health in later life.
Let’s start with the obvious. Regular exercise, paired with a commitment to eating smaller portions of food – this is not the same thing as dieting – helps to control weight. But that’s not all. Exercise boosts energy levels and promotes better sleep. It builds strong bones and muscles, and it promotes good skin.
Your brain health and memory skills get a boost from it, too. An improved balance of blood sugar and insulin levels is another benefit, as is a slowing of the aging process. People who are prone to falls may develop a better sense of balance through exercise, and it can counteract chronic pain. Oh, and it improves your sex life – which makes living much more enjoyable.
As if all these benefits were not enough, a good exercise routine can be fun, and even improve your social life. Who knows whom you might meet on the exercise trails or at the gym!
A well-rounded exercise program has four components. An aerobic activity is one facet. Strength training with weights is another. Flexibility and balance training, which you can get through doing yoga or Pilates, is an important part of the overall picture. And Kegel exercises for the pelvic floor and bladder are the last piece of an all-over program.
Strong Curves: A Woman’s Guide to Building a Better Butt and Body, by Bret Contreras and Kellie Davis, is a good place to find information that will help you to build your own program.
Aerobic exercises include walking, running, cycling, swimming, aquatic workouts, cross-country skiing, ball sports, and solo activities like trampolining and skipping rope. And again, let’s not forget sex, which, if done well, gives you an enjoyable workout.
Many sociable activities actually amount to aerobic exercise – not just obvious things like aquatics and fitness classes, but singing in a choir, dancing with others, and hiking as well. All these are fun to do, and they take us out into the company of others.
Strength training is all about building muscle. Lifting free weights is the most common way to do it, though weight machines and exercise bands achieve the same results.
Flexibility exercises are vital to keep you supple, and they should be done along with the other forms of exercise. Exercise disciplines that develop flexibility include hatha yoga, tai chi, and Pilates. These also keep your muscles in good shape.
Balance exercises ought to be – and usually are – included in flexibility programs. Here are some simple balance exercises that anyone can do easily. They are all done with arms stretched out to the sides to help balance. Hold for as long as desired and do them on each leg.
Practicing standing up from a sitting position is also a good idea.
Kegel exercises are for the pelvic floor and the bladder. Simply squeeze your pelvic muscles and hold. What’s great about this exercise is that it can be done at any time. Restoring the Pelvic Floor by Dr. Amanda A. Olson is an excellent starting point for understanding the need for Kegel exercises and learning how to do them.
When it comes to exercise, establishing a routine is essential. You can either do your exercises at home, perhaps first thing in the day, or schedule a regular time at the gym. You may find exercising with a buddy more motivating. Or YouTube videos may be just what you need.
And you can be active with friends and family, doing fun things. It’s also possible to make your everyday pursuits more active. For instance, why not take the stairs instead of the elevator, or park the car at the furthest corner of the parking lot and walk to where you’re going?
Overall, though, the most important thing is that you follow Nike’s advice: “Just do it!”
A useful introductory book on exercise is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller Becoming a Supple Leopard by Dr. Kelly Starrett (2015). In this manual for the human body, Dr. Starrett teaches us how to examine our own movements and how to move safely and effectively through life and sport.
Speak to your doctor if you think a health issue might make certain forms of exercise inadvisable for you. And consult the experts, finding a good personal trainer if necessary.
How do you shape up? Do you exercise regularly or sporadically? Do you enjoy it? What exercises have you formed into a daily habit?
Tags Fitness Over 60