Getting Fit For Life
Four Types of Exercise continued...
Keeping your muscles in shape can help prevent another serious problem in
older people-falls that cause problems like broken hips. When the leg and hip
muscles that support you are strong, you're less likely to fall. Even if you do
fall, you will be more likely to be able to get up on your own. And using your
muscles may make your bones stronger, too.
Three-Do things to help your balance. For example, stand on one
foot, then the other. If you can, don't hold on to anything for support. Stand
up from sitting in a chair without using your hands or arms. Every now and then
walk heel-to-toe. When you walk this way, the toes of the foot in back should
almost touch the heel of the foot in front.
Four-Stretch. Stretching can help keep you flexible. You will be
able to move more freely. Stretch when your muscles are warmed up. Never
stretch so far that it hurts.
Who Should Exercise?
Almost anyone, at any age, can improve his or her health by doing some type
of activity. But, check with your doctor first if you plan to do strenuous
activity (the kind that makes you breathe hard and sweat) and you are a man
over 40 or a woman over 50. Your doctor might be able to give you a go-ahead
over the phone, or he or she might ask you to come in for a visit.
You can still exercise even if you have a long-term condition like heart
disease or diabetes. In fact, physical activity may help your illness, but only
if it's done during times when your condition is under control. During
flare-ups, exercise could be harmful. If you have any of the following
problems, it's important to check with your doctor before starting an exercise
a chronic disease, or a high risk of getting one-for example, if you smoke,
if you are obese, or if you have a family history of a long-term disease
any new symptom you haven't talked about with your doctor
shortness of breath
the feeling that your heart is skipping, racing, or fluttering
infections or fever
unplanned weight loss
foot or ankle sores that won't heal
pain or trouble walking after you've fallen
a bleeding or detached retina, eye surgery, or laser treatment
Here are some things you can do to make sure you are exercising safely:
Start slowly. Little by little build up your activities and how hard you
work at them. Doing too much, too soon, can hurt you, especially if you have
not been active.
Don't hold your breath while straining-when using your muscles, for example.
That could cause changes in your blood pressure. It may seem strange at first,
but the rule is to breathe out while your muscle is working, breathe in when it
relaxes. For example, if you are lifting something, breathe out as you lift;
breathe in when you stop.
If you are taking any medicines or have any illnesses that change your
natural heart rate, don't use your pulse rate as a way of judging how hard you
should exercise. One example of this kind of medicine is a type of blood
pressure drug known as a beta blocker.
Use safety equipment to keep you from getting hurt. That means, for example,
a helmet for bike riding or the right shoes for walking or jogging.
Unless your doctor has asked you to limit fluids, be sure to drink plenty
when you are doing activities that make you sweat. Many older people tend to be
low on fluid much of the time, even when not exercising.
Always bend forward from the hips, not the waist. If you keep your back
straight, you're probably bending the right way. If your back "humps,"
that's probably wrong.
Warm up your muscles before you stretch. For example, do a little easy
biking, or walking and light arm pumping first.
Exercises should not hurt or make you feel really tired. You might feel some
soreness, a little discomfort, or a bit weary, but you should not feel pain. In
fact, in many ways, being physically active will probably make you feel