When it comes to getting—and staying—active as a senior, the road can be difficult, especially if you suffer from joint pain, obesity, or another condition that may restrict your movement. While you may be quite well-versed in what’s good for your health, it can be hard to follow through. But, despite the growing obesity epidemic and prevalence of diabetes in America, seniors across the nation are getting healthier—just in time for National Senior Health & Fitness Day tomorrow, May 28.
When flipping through the health headlines last week, I came across a bit of good news (which can seem rare these days)—a report by the United Health Foundation and America’s Health Rankings on the health and wellness of America’s seniors. And it looks like our efforts to get healthy are paying off!
Two key findings of the report that I’d like to highlight are the reductions in inactivity and preventable hospitalizations. Compared to last year, physical inactivity declined to 28.7%, compared to 30.3% in 2013, and preventable hospitalizations dropped to 64.9 discharges per 1,000 from 66.6. Interestingly, both statistics suggest that seniors are taking their health into their own hands, becoming more responsible for their well-being before they require clinical care through exercise and an overall healthier lifestyle.
But while the report notes that we are making progress, there’s quite a ways to go. Chronic diseases linked to an unhealthy lifestyle and the prevalence of obesity are still challenges we need to face together—through our own efforts, national policies and programs, and community involvement. And what better time is there to take that next step than this Wednesday, May 28? In celebration of National Senior Health & Fitness Day, many community centers and senior support groups are throwing events to get active and promote a healthy lifestyle. See your local events calendar or newspaper to find out what’s going on in your neighborhood. If there doesn’t happen to be anything in your community, then take the opportunity to get together with some friends for a healthy lunch, brisk walk, or some light entertainment to boost your mental health.
Looking to get started with a regular fitness routine? A safe, simple way to start exercising is to try an aquafit class or some lane swimming. Most fitness centers will offer senior rates and midday classes that may be less intimidating to attend if you’re a first-timer. And when it comes to lane swimming, start by going at your own pace. Once you’ve gone a few times, your body will start to loosen up, allowing you to do a few more laps. This is a great option if you have sore joints or are looking to lose some excess weight.
If you want to strengthen your legs and improve your balance, some simple leg raises can help you get started. Simply stand straight and slowly raise one leg to the side, toe pointed; extend it as far as you comfortably can and hold before slowly lowering it back to the floor. If you find your balance is a little off to begin with, place your hand on a sturdy chair or table for safety.
Finally, some other low-impact, low-intensity forms of exercise you can try are tai chi, yoga, or a simple stretching class. All three will help you become loose and limber, while improving your balance and overall core strength. The best way to get involved in these forms of exercise is to take a class; encourage a friend to go with you for some moral support or simply to keep you motivated.
Whatever you choose, be sure to put safety first; don’t overexert yourself. Start with a low-impact activity and work your way up.
Sources for Today’s Article:
“America’s Health Rankings Senior Report, United Health Foundation: A Call to Action for Individuals and Their Families, 2013 Edition,” America’s Health Rankings web site, May 2013; http://cdnfiles.americashealthrankings.org/SiteFiles/SeniorDownloads/Americas_Health_Rankings_Senior_Edition_2013_final.pdf, last accessed May 26, 2014.
“America’s Health Rankings Senior Report, United Health Foundation: A Call to Action for Individuals and Their Families, 2014 Edition,” America’s Health Rankings web site, May 2014; http://cdnfiles.americashealthrankings.org/SiteFiles/SeniorDownloads/AHR-Senior-Report-2014.pdf.
“United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings Senior Report Finds Seniors Are Improving in Key Health Measures,” United Health Foundation web site, May 21, 2014; http://www.unitedhealthfoundation.org/News/Articles/Feeds/2014/0521AHRSeniorReport.aspx?p=1&.