Exercise: A key to healthy aging and staying independent – part 2

As we age it is important to continue to exercise in order to maintain healthy daily living.

As a person ages, exercise is an important tool to keep us functioning in our daily lives. When considering what type of exercise you will incorporate into your daily life, remember that exercise falls into four basic categories. These four include endurance, strengthening, balance and flexibility. Most people think by doing just one type of exercise they are getting all the benefits but by varying your exercise activities you are likely to get a wider range of benefits.

Endurance exercise works to improve your heart, lungs and circulatory system. These types of exercises help to prevent or delay many diseases common in older Americans like heart disease and diabetes. If you experience poor circulation and cold hands and feet, consider getting up and going for a walk. Continual movement is an important aspect of this type of exercise. Examples of endurance exercises include walking, jogging, biking, swimming and even mowing your lawn.

Strength based exercise works to strengthen your muscles allowing you to do daily activities like carrying your laundry to the washing machine. You can use simple items in your home like soup cans or flour bags or you can purchase resistance bands at your local sport store to build up your strength.

Balance exercises help to prevent falls. Exercises like you would experience in a tai chi class work to improve your balance. Standing on one foot with support nearby for short periods of time will help improve your balance.

Flexibility exercises are often forgotten about. We all move, but the question is how well do we move. If you have aches and pains in your back you may not feel like doing an exercise, but actually by doing gentle stretching you may relieve the pain. Beginner yoga uses many stretching exercises good for keeping your joints and muscles flexible.

An important part of exercising is our need to stay hydrated. Dehydration becomes a risk as we age as some people lose their sense of thirst. In addition, thirst may be affected by the type of medication one takes. Try to follow these tips given by the National Institute on Aging. Before you exercise, it is important to have a glass of water particularly if you will be perspiring. Once you have completed your exercise, make it a practice to rehydrate. Try to add additional liquids throughout the day. Soups, juices, coffee, tea and water all add fluids to one’s diet. Pick liquids that don’t add sugar and too many calories to your diet. When you take your medications, drink the entire glass of water instead of sips. If you choose to drink alcoholic beverages, drink in moderation. Moderation for a woman means one drink per day and up to two drinks for men.

For more information on healthy aging topics and educational programs, visit the Michigan State University Extension website and Part 1 of this article if you haven't already.

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