You’ll hear it all the time, that resolution to exercise more with the new year. People can start the first week, but then go back to the old habits of a sedentary life. Television can be more tempting than putting on those walking shoes, if they even have the shoes. And excuses abound: it’s too cold, it’s too hot, I don’t have time or I just don’t feel like it. What is this doing to the health of our elders?
In short, the sedentary lifestyle is seriously hurting people’s chances of living a longer and healthier life. And some say they don’t care, they’ll agree to live a shorter life if they don’t really have to get off the couch. but it’s not about how long American seniors live, it’s all about how they live and how many chronic health conditions and disabilities they will accept in exchange for not getting up and moving anymore. Multiple chronic conditions include obesity, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, and more. Living with these conditions is expensive and requires many medications and doctor visits. Nobody wants that. But prevention requires motivation.
How healthy are boomers?
According to a research study in JAMA Internal Medicine Going back 10 years, Boomers aren’t as healthy as we’d like to be. More than half of the study participants did not do any type of regular exercise. The National Institute on Aging has clear recommendations for older people. They say we should all get 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise plus muscle-strengthening work twice a week. Why don’t people do it, when all the authorities say we should?
As an active athlete in my 70s, I often wonder why my peers spend so much time sitting down and so little time moving their bodies. I know one factor: exercise requires effort! We have to put the energy to get going. We have to do it when we don’t feel like it. We have to do it to prevent dementia, since we know that vigorous exercise protects our brain and the rest of our body. We have to do it to avoid those nasty chronic conditions.
YouTube to the rescue
How much work is it? Not so much, in my opinion. There are quite easy and even fun ways to exercise. For those with elderly parents who haven’t started exercising, there are helpful videos to demonstrate what one can do without leaving home. Find some videos and play them for your elderly loved ones. (for you too!) The National Institute on Aging created Go4Life, with workouts on YouTube, which is to encourage older adults to exercise. Free 10- to 15-minute video-guided home shows are a great start.
If you want to get your aging parent moving, a wish I hear often on AgingParents.com, where I consult with families, you can show them what to do or do something with them. Your support, encouragement, and perhaps your participation can be very helpful to the reluctant elder. Something is better than nothing! Watching a video with your older mom or dad and offering to do the routine with them is a great way to connect and help both of you. disabled parent? Many exercises can be done sitting in a chair.
- The exercise requires effort, but not a huge effort. When we do, we are negotiating better aging by sitting on the couch and inviting chronic health problems. The effort is well worth it!
- It’s more fun to exercise with someone than alone. If you have a couple, a groupor even a regular video exercise group, that’s helpful for motivation.
- Get the right basic clothes and shoes. It is not expensive to buy basic walking shoes, some loose pants, shirts, hat and jacket at a discount store.
- If you’re not sure what to do to get started, check out the Go4Life Videos and try a 10-15 minute home workout.
- My favorite option when no other strenuous or attractive options are available – just walk. Brisk is best, falls in the “moderate” category, great for heart health. In bad weather, you can climb stairs, walk in a mall, or do any long video with or without equipment like light dumbbells.
Changing your non-exercise habits isn’t that easy, but I don’t hear anyone tell me they’re sorry they started an exercise habit. It feels great to be fitter. It can improve your mood, help control your weight, and start you on a path to the healthiest kind of aging.
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