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No matter how many candles are on your birthday cake, it’s never too late to reap the health rewards of regular exercise. Regardless of your age or how many moons it’s been since you last lifted a weight or went for a walk, you can always find an appropriate exercise routine to boost your fitness, energy and overall wellness.
It’s a fact that muscle strength begins to decline after age 50, and you may have to be more careful about choosing your workout routine. But studies show that regular exercise can make you stronger and improve your health. There are many benefits to seniors who exercise and remain fit, including:
• Reducing risk factors linked to heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
• Lowering your risk of depression or the severity of depressive symptoms, including feelings of hopelessness and sadness or overall lack of enthusiasm in spending time with friends or doing other things you normally enjoy.
• Increasing your ability to get a good night’s sleep.
• Getting rid of many unexplained aches and pains.
• Reducing your risk of sustaining fall-related fractures.
Once you’ve decided to take the plunge and start a fitness program, where do you begin? Building physical fitness involves regularly working the heart, lungs and muscles. Ideally, you should get some form of aerobic exercise at least three times a week to improve the health of your heart and circulatory system. Strengthening exercises can build muscle tissue and slow age-related muscle loss. Stretching and balancing exercises can keep your body flexible and limber, and reduce your risk of falling and becoming injured.
As a senior, it’s important to talk with your doctor before starting your exercise program. Consider a low-impact exercise that’s less likely to cause bone or joint injuries. Examples include water aerobics, swimming, walking, hiking, jogging, dancing, light weights and calisthenics, cycling, bowling, golfing, yoga and tai chi.
More than 30 percent of American seniors walk for exercise. This is a great exercise plan. Just three hours of brisk walking per week may reduce your risk of heart attack by 64 percent.
It’s never too late to get back into shape and feel better with a healthy exercise routine. So put on those workout clothes and go for a walk or do another type of moderate exercise today. You’ll be glad you did.
Dr. Minerva Navarro is a family medicine physician in the Geriatrics Department at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s Mountain View Center.
The Palo Alto Medical Foundation and column editor Arian Dasmalchi provide this monthly column.