Living Well and Feeling Good

Not long ago, the concept of exercising for those over age 55 may have included a healthy walk around the neighborhood or inside a mall. While walking is an excellent way to stay active and healthy, today individuals 55 and over are expanding upon what it means to stay active in order to impact their long-term health goals.

Being Purpose-Driven

Staying active means different things to different people, but the key is to keep moving. As Jennifer Hamilton,
a physician assistant at Stoughton Health’s OrthoTeam Clinic explains, exercise can be both mentally and physically rewarding at any age.

“The benefits of staying active include improved endurance, decreased joint stiffness, weight control, better balance and improved mood with the production of endorphins,” Hamilton says.

While exercising can improve a person’s emotional wellbeing, it also helps maintain a healthy weight, which plays a huge role in arthritis prevention of the knees and hips.

“Being sedentary can lead to weight gain and loss of joint mobility, both of which can increase pain in the joints,” says Renee Burke, a physician assistant at the Stoughton Health OrthoTeam Clinic.

In some cases, five pounds of weight loss can contribute to 20 to 25 pounds less pressure on the knee joints.

Steps to Take

Exercise does more than help you lose weight and get toned — it also creates an increased demand for oxygen, which conditions the cardiorespiratory system and is an excellent defense against high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease.

So, what are some suggestions on how to stay active after age 55?

Hamilton says one of the best ways is the simplest: Walking. Walking in your neighborhood, at a park, on a treadmill or around the mall can be great for your heart health as well as easy on your joints.

“For mobility, consider yoga, chair yoga or modified yoga, which can be excellent for increasing flexibility and stretching, and reducing pain,” Hamilton says.

Another excellent low-impact activity is swimming or water aerobics. “ This activity really gets the heart pumping while being incredibly gentle on your weight-bearing joints,”Burke says.

Other ideal, low-impact exercise options include biking (stationary and outdoor), taking a Pilates class, dancing to your favorite music or taking a Zumba class.

When identifying your key exercise regimen, consider your personal goals for the activity level.

“If the goal is weight loss, then a comprehensive diet plan and exercise program focusing on exercise that elevates their heart rate is the first step,” Hamilton says. “If the [person’s] goal is strength, determining where to start can be key.”

Usually, strength-building starts with very low weights (under five pounds) and slowly adding more weight as tolerated. If your goal is to increase mobility and balance, yoga and physical therapy are excellent resources for gaining knowledge and confidence.

Stoughton Health offers a variety of exercise classes to help keep people over 55 active, including balance, Strong Bodies, Parkinson’s, yoga and more. These classes and more can be found at stoughtonhealth.com.

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