For seniors who need a bit of motivation to get up and moving, how about this: regular exercise will keep you living not only long but also more independently. And if you think that you’re too old to start exercising or don’t know what exercises you can do, there’s a helpful, free resource you can turn to for help.
Go4Life is an evidence-based exercise and physical activity campaign run by the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It was developed in response to NIH research which found that exercise can promote independence. In collaboration with the White House Conference on Aging they are celebrating Go4Life Month throughout September 2015.
One of the key messages of Go4Life is to increase the awareness that exercise and fitness activity is a small investment that can pay big dividends when it comes to promoting healthy aging. Just a few of the benefits are increased strength, balance and flexibility, and it can even help mitigate the effects of conditions like diabetes, heart disease and osteoporosis.
In recognition that many seniors don’t have an active wellness plan, Go4life offers “practical real-life-tips to add physical activity to their routine.” The first step is to assess a fitness level you’re starting from—this has no relation to age and only sets the baseline for how to integrate exercise into your life. The next step is to “connect the exerciser to concrete goals.” For example one concrete goal could be continuing to drive or playing with a grandchild. Taking small steps is better than jumping in full steam, which can lead to discouragement. You need only “a little piece of time” to get started—even 10 minutes is fine. Consider setting a goal of 30 minutes of exercise per day, which can be easily broken into smaller chunks of time.
Go4Life points to the four different types of exercise needed to foster well-being:
- endurance or aerobic based activities, such as walking, jogging or dancing
- strength exercises, such as lifting weights or using resistance band which can make it easier to perform everyday tasks like climbing stairs and lifting groceries
- balance exercises, such as standing on one leg or Tai Chi, in order to prevent falls
- flexibility exercises, like stretches or yoga, to give freedom of movement for other exercises
Before beginning an exercise program, you are encouraged to consult to your doctor first, especially if you have any new symptoms, notice problems such as joint swelling, dizziness and shortness of breath, or have had any recent surgeries.
While the Go4Life program is tailored for those who are 50 years old and better, there is no upper limit and seniors are never “too old to get engaged with physical activity.” Whether you’re a senior yourself, or you’re part of an organization that works with older adults, there are numerous ways to participate in G4Life Month.
And if you need an extra bit of motivation to keep with a program, ask your friends or book club to join in. You will also find all sorts of helpful tools on the site to help you plan your wellness goals and track your progress. You can even create a free account, receiving tips from your own virtual coach to help keep you motivated. So get out there and start exercising!