Each month WebMD the Magazine puts your questions about weight loss
and fitness to top exercise and motivational experts. This month, John Harvey,
an 86-year-old retired physician, asked for help beginning a fitness routine.
Harvey moved with his wife to a retirement community in Bethesda, Md., about a
year ago. He's never been obese, but at 225 pounds he's leaning more on his
cane and is unsteady on his feet. For advice, we turned to Anthony Absalon, a
fitness trainer at Fox Hill Senior Living in Bethesda, who specializes in
seniors and is arthritis rehabilitation-certified by the Arthritis
John's question: I was a workaholic all my professional life. I never
exercised or played golf or tennis -- I just worked all the time. Now I have
trouble with my balance, I've had to use a cane for more than a year, and I've
had arthritis for many years. What can I do to get more fit?
Have you given up on exercise? A lot of older people do -- just one out of four people between the ages of 65 and 74 exercises regularly. Many people assume that they're too out-of-shape, or sick, or tired, or just plain old to exercise. They're wrong.
"Exercise is almost always good for people of any age," says Chhanda Dutta, PhD, chief of the Clinical Gerontology Branch at the National Institute on Aging. Exercise can help make you stronger, prevent bone loss, improve balance and coordination,...
Answer: "While today's seniors were growing up, fitness wasn't what
it is today. The biggest issue is trying to get them to start with a fitness
program that combines cardio, strength training, and balance." Some of
Absalon's safe fitness tips for seniors:
Watch your steps. Get a simple pedometer -- many cost around $10, and
some are even giveaways -- and track how many steps you take each day. The
goal is at least 10,000 steps every day, but work up slowly -- you don't have
to go from 1,000 to 10,000 overnight.
Take the stairs. Just walking up and down stairs instead of riding
the elevator can help burn calories and build strength and balance. But it's
not always easy with an old injury. "If you have a bum knee, it's up with the
good, and down with the bad," says Absalon. "So lead with your good leg when
going up the stairs, and lead with your bad leg going down."
Take a chair. You can boost your core strength -- essential for
balance and muscle tone -- while sitting at a computer or watching TV. Scoot
forward so you're sitting on the edge of the chair, sitting tall with chest up
and shoulders back. Lean back from the hips until your shoulders touch the back
of the chair, then come back up. "You'll feel how tight your stomach muscles
are," says Absalon. "It's a safe way to exercise your core without torquing the