As seen in the February 19, 2004 issue of the North Shore Outlook*
At 76 years of age Liz is a vibrant and active go-getter who is more than willing to give anyone a run for their money. Simply put; she doesn’t sit still! However, a year and a half ago Liz’ life was very different. At that time she had type-2 diabetes, was 40 lbs overweight, and was unable to get around without the aid of a cane. When she did get out her trips were brief, tiring, and sometimes frightening. One in four Canadians over 65 face restrictions in their daily activities due to lack of strength and stability and Liz was part of that group.
According to Health Canada, individuals over 65 years of age are the fastest growing population in the country. The B.C. Medical association informs us that less that 25% of this population is physically active leaving them more vulnerable to life-limiting illnesses. However, people like Liz can tell you that this simply does not have to be. If you want to be fabulously fit over fifty there are four key components for success:
Cardiovascular fitness. This is one of the easy ones! All it takes is an activity that will keep your muscles warm and glowing for a minimum of 20 minutes a day three times a week. Choose activities with repetitive movements such as walking, swimming, or even gardening. Whatever you choose to do, don’t forget to have the right equipment: if you are walking purchase walking shoes, if you are cycling get a helmet, and so on. Once you get started you will not only strengthen your heart and lungs as they work to deliver oxygen to working muscles, you will also trim away excess weight.
Muscular strength. The typical person loses 20 – 40% of their muscle tissue between ages of 50 and 80 leading to loss of strength, increased instability, and osteoporosis. So lets not be typical! This degree of loss is preventable through regular strength training exercise. The most basic of strength training exercises using tools such as exercise tubing, exercise balls and small free weights will do the trick. If you have access to light weight dumbbells all the better as they increases the number of exercises that you can do. If you are not sure about which exercises are best for you ask your doctor or an exercise specialist. Once you have increased your strength, exercising with resistance just one day a week can help you to maintain your independence and avoid injuries.
Flexibility. This is the area where you can see results the fastest. Having supple muscles helps to increase strength, eases arthritis, reduces chances of injury, and promotes a good range of motion. Best of all, it feels fantastic! Improving your flexibility can be attained by daily gentle stretching as well as by starting all activities slowly. If you want to try something different you may want to consider a Yoga video for seniors. After all, Yoga is the rage regardless of age.
Balance Training. Falls are the number 1 cause of accidental death in seniors according to Health Canada. Balance exercises help to improve equilibrium and prevent falls while improving muscular strength and control. Improving balance can be simple: use a fitness ball to sit on while writing a letter or while watching TV. Stand on one foot while doing dishes. Tai Chi is an excellent way to improve balance while quieting the mind! Try to work on balance several times throughout each day.
Safety first. Before you start any activity, even stretching, take the time to warm up by moving slowly and rhythmically with arm and leg circles or by walking at a slightly slower pace. This will help to prevent injury while exercising. When you are done exercising take a few minutes to cool down by stretching. Never stop exercising abruptly and don’t forget to drink plenty of water during activity (even if you don’t feel thirsty). Start slowly and increase your exercise sessions gradually and again, if you are not sure of what activities and exercises are best for you ask your doctor or a fitness professional for advice.
So how did Liz get in shape? Liz walks daily, she does aerobics and resistance training in the pool 2 times a week and works out with weights 1 day a week. Just to round it all out she eats a healthy diet and keeps socially active and stress free. And every day, you will find Liz, cane in hand, out for her daily walks. Oh I know I said she doesn’t need a cane anymore, she carries it so that people will stop for the little old lady crossing the street. They don’t know that she’s over fifty, fit, and Fabulous!
*It’s hard to believe that I wrote that over 10 years ago! Wonderful that I’m re-posting it just a couple of months shy of my fiftieth birthday. AND… Liz is STILL going strong!