The Best Of…Ten Simple Tips for Staying Fit

Published September 26, 2008, All Pawtucket All The Times

         In their younger years aging baby boomers never went onto the basket ball court without wearing their Converse, Reebok, Nike, New Balance or Nautilus tennis shoes.  This generation with their strong interest in health and fitness will not spend their retirement years as a couch potato watching television or sitting in an oak rocker on their porch.  With winter approaching, aging baby boomers can work to stay slim, trim and fit by remaining physically active.

            According to the International Council on Active Aging, aging baby boomers can become physically fit by simply following these tips:

1,  See your physician.   A medical checkup will determine whether you need to consider any medical clarifications before starting an exercise program.  Talk with your physician about any of your concerns or limitations.  After a day or two of exercise, if you experience major discomfort from working out including shortness of breath, headaches, chest pains, sore muscles and dizziness, see your physician.

2.   Look at options.  Do you join a local gym, aerobics in your house, enroll in a yoga class, make time for a daily walk in your neighborhood.  The key to your fitness success is doing your activities regularly.

3.  Know your style.  Some may like to take classes, others may prefer to go solo.  Exercising indoors may be more acceptable to some then outdoor physical activities.  Your schedule may also dictate when you can block out time, either in the morning, lunch time or evening, for your daily fitness program. 

4.  Start off slowly.  Learn to listen to your body. Be realistic when you begin to exercise and don’t overdo it at the beginning.   To reduce soreness and injury always ease your way into your fitness program.

5.  Get a buddy.  An exercise partner can be a great motivator in getting you started and to maintain a daily exercise regimen.  Whether it’s making a date with a friend to take a walk, play racket ball or golf or regularly seeing a personal trainer at your local gym, the personal interaction can motivate you to continue to exercise.

6.  Be realistic.  Don’t try to workout like you did in your younger years.  Always be realistic, setting age-related goals you expect to gain from participating in a physical exercise program.  If enormous benefits do not occur, like losing 30 pounds in one month, you might feel disappointed and quit exercising. 

7.  Make choices.  What are you willing to give up to make room for exercise?  What bad habits, (like smoking, drinking, sedentary and nonproductive activities, are you willing to give up?  It is up to you to choose wisely.

8.  Keep in motion.  Keeping moving all day long. Stretch, walk, march in place, stand and sit daily as often as you can when you are talking on the phone or watching television.  Every step counts.  A step counter will give you an idea as to how many steps you take a day.  Less active people may take about 4,000 steps or fewer per day.  Aim to do 250 to 1,000 additional steps of brisk walking, until you reach 8,000 to 10,000 steps in a day. 

9.   Create a support network.  Get your friends, colleagues and family members to support your new physical activity goals and ask them for their support and encouragement.  Consider getting others to help you keep your physical exercise commitments.  Telephone reminders from your vast network can keep you motivated and on track.

10.  Always Reward yourself.  Once you’ve reached your goals, recognize that milestone.  Treat yourself to something that reminds you what has been accomplished and encourages you to continue. 

One Final Note…Gold’s Gym Opens New Pawtucket Facility

            Finding the right gym can be as easy as getting referrals from your family and friends or shopping around for the right price or specific services that you need, says Mike Kasun, a personal trainer at Gold’s Gym, located at 550 Pawtucket Avenue in Pawtucket. “There are many gyms out there that may be cheaper than others but they just don’t offer a wide range of services.  Price, services provided, classes, and the gym’s location (being close to home or work) are key factors that people should consider when shopping around for a gym membership, he says.    

            Last Saturday,Pawtucket’s Gold’s Gym, officially opened its newly refurbished 25,000 square foot building with state-of-the art exercise equipment, notes Kasun. The new gym facility has 60 pieces of cardio equipment each with their own 14-inch plasma television; 105 pieces of resistance-training equipment, a “Cardio Cinema” where you exercise while watching a full length feature movie, a private woman’s workout room, along with a country club-like locker room. Two hundred free parking spaces surround the new gym.

            When joining Gold’s Gym, a new member receives two free personal training sessions, Kasun tells Your Later Years. “At your first session we assess what the person needs and wants to get out of their membership. Some may want to tone or lose weight while others are more interested in building up muscle strength, he notes. 

            “With information and health data gathered during this initial assessment a workout program can be especially designed for the individual.  During the second session the member is taken through a one hour work out specifically designed for them,” adds Kasun.

            Group exercise programs are also included in the Gold’s Gym’s membership price.   Kasun notes, “We have Les Mills Body Pump Class, offering a full body workout for participants using light weights.  Yoga, Step and other toning classes are also available, too,” he says, noting that all of the personal training staff is nationally certified in the classes they teach.

            Pawtucket’s Gold’s Gym, one of 650 locations nationwide offer AARP members the ability to enroll for only $49 and a savings of up to a 20 percent on their monthly membership as well as a seven day free trial membership period.  For more information, call Gold’s Gym at (401)722-6600.

            Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer who covers aging, medical and health care issues.  This article appeared in the September 26, 2008 issue of My Back Yard.   He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.

The Best of…Experts: Eat Less, Exercise

Published January 2007, Senior Digest

            As we begin the New Year, many people launch promises through New Year’s resolutions or take this time to reflect on overall better lifestyle improvements.    State aging and health care experts say that if your goal is to live longer, consider squeezing in time to enhance your fitness and health through ongoing exercise and better eating.

           Phillip G. Clark, ScD, Professor and Director Program in Gerontology and Rhode Island Geriatric Education Center, notes that exercise is key to living a healthier life.  “Use it or lose it,” he tells Senior Digest.   If older adults don’t continue to use their capabilities, whether physical or mental, they may eventually lose those abilities. So, it is important for aging baby boomers and seniors to continue to be as active as they can, within the limits of any impairments or health problems they may have.

           Before beginning any program always check with your doctor to be sure it is okay. “Your doctor will advise you on other special conditions or limitations you may need to address in developing your own program,” Dr. Clark says.

Exercise, the Best Pill

          Dr. Clark believes that exercise is the “best pill,” Regular exercise for older adults are linked to all sorts of positive physical and mental health outcomes and advantages, he says.  People just feel better physically and mentally especially if they exercise properly on a regular basis.

          The University of Rhode Island (URI) gerontologist compares physical activity to a savings account.  Dr. Clark says, “If you ‘put’ deposits into your exercise savings on a regular basis, you can ‘draw’ on these when you are sick or have to hospitalized to help minimize the impact of any setback on your functioning.”  

          To exercise, costly weight machines and bikes are not necessary, Clark says.  “Keep it simple,” Dr. Clark recommends.  “For many older adults, just walking regularly can have a number of positive benefits. In the winter when the weather is bad, some folks walk around inside their local senior housing building or at the mall,” he says.

             Deb Riebe, PhD., a Professor in URI’s Department to Kinesiology, says that research has found resistance training is another viable option for aging baby boomers and seniors to consider staying fit.  .

 Consider Resistance Training and Balance Exercises

             The URI exercise physiologist notes that muscle strength peaks at age 30 for most people.  After age 50, there is a real decline in muscle strength.  By your 60s or 70s, if you don’t exercise or participate in a resistance training program it will become more difficult to perform simple activities of daily living, like carrying the vacuum cleaner or groceries, says Riebe.

             Strengthening your muscles can be done simply by lifting small hand weights that can purchased in local stores, adds Riebe, noting that you can use your own body weight to strengthen your muscles in your legs by sitting in your dining room and than standing up.  Perform this simple resistance training exercise 10 times.

             “Balance exercises are also very good to prevent a person from falling.  “A good example of a balance exercise is to stand up on one leg using a chair for support,” she says.  

             Don’t use lack of time as a reason to not exercise, warns Riebe.  “Fit 30 or 40 minutes of exercise into your daily routine.  But for those who chose not to you can always park your car far away from a store and walk a little longer distance.  Or you do a few exercises during a television commercial, “combining leisure with a quick work out,” she says.

              Even when socializing with friends or family, Riebe recommends going out and taking a walk around the neighborhood.  “Everyone will benefit,” she says… 

               Anne Marie Connolly, MS, Director of Rhode Island’s Get Fit Rhode Island, Program, oversees Governor Donald Carcieri’s worksite wellness initiative for state employees.  Programs like Rhode Island’s are being launched nationwide by the mandate of state health commissioners and insurance companies attempting to reel in spiraling health care costs. 

               To improve health behavior, brochures, on site lectures (controlling stress and high blood pressure) and behavior change classes (physical exercise and smoking cessation) are aimed at the 20,000 state workers, whose average age is 47 years old.

 Good Nutrition Important, Too

              Connolly, a professor and research associate at URI’s Kinesiology Department stresses the importance that nutrition plays in maintaining one’s good health.  “Research tells us that people should eat smaller portions, increase their fruit and vegetable and decrease fat, high calorie foods and sweets from their diet,” she recommends.

              For persons with high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes, consider asking your physician for a consult to see a nutritionist.  Connolly notes that this visit is covered by most of health insurance companies.  “A change in your diet can make significant improvements in many chronic conditions.” 

              Connolly observes that some people don’t buy vegetables and fruits because of cost.  “Look around for supermarkets that offer smaller packaging or portions of vegetables and fruits. Salad and fruit bars enable a person to buy to portion or quantity they need,”: she says.  Even in senior housing, you can work with others to buy cheaply.  Split a head of lettuce with a neighbor. Create a schedule to rotate the purchasing of fruits and vegetables, too.   

              As to exercise, Connolly suggests people start off slowly, more important find an exercise that you will like to do.  As a consultant to Club Med, she came to believe that exercise should be fun and not a chore.  “Look back and see what you did when you were younger,” Connolly adds.  “One woman who took tap dancing in her younger years picked it up again.  It does not have to have to be the same intensity as when you were younger.”   

              For persons with arthritis, try going to a local senior center or YMCA and enroll in exercise programs specifically designed for that chronic condition.  “Water exercise is extremely wonderful for people with arthritis,” she says.

               Connolly notes that some Medicare providers even give special discounts for senior citizens who join health care club chains, costing the older person just $10.00 per month.  Check out your Medicare health care plan’s benefits to see if you are eligible to participate.

              Experts agree that the exercise benefits both young and old. “What is remarkable about the human body, people of all ages respond to physical exercise in the same way,” Connolly says.  .

               Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket-based writer whose articles on health, medical and aging issue.  This article was published in January 2007 in Senior Digest. He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.