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The benefits of staying fit as we age

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Aging is an inevitable aspect of life. Here are a few tips to improve your quality of life as you age.

An annoying fact of life is aging. It happens to all of us and it can sneak up on us. The good news is that maintaining an active lifestyle has positive benefits on our overall health, which in turn can improve quality of life.

Almost half of Canadians are now over the age of 45, and many are looking for ways to stay active or get in better shape as the years pass. We tend to think of gyms, sports clubs, and road races as being designed only for young svelte athletes.  The reality however is that more adults are making choices to ensure they stay fit through their senior years.

Marlene Sykes, Coach for the Newmarket Road Runners agrees that she has noticed an increase in the ages of long-distance runners in recent years, including within her own running team.  Sykes suggests that when people sense a decline in their overall health, they are empowered to make changes and set goals for themselves. Because athletes over the age of 50 tend to lose muscle mass and aerobic capacity, she recommends that: “they take extra time to warm-up, starting with a walk and dynamic stretches before easing into a jog.”  

While we often feel more aches and pains as we age, a constant level of activity helps to ward off the effects of joint pain and muscle decline.  The World Health Organization recommends that adults over the age of 65 participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. They further suggest that activity helps seniors to maintain “higher levels of functional health, a lower risk of falling, and better cognitive function.”

With all of this in mind, what can you do to improve your overall fitness?

Try incorporating activity into your daily routine.  The best fitness plans offer variety and challenge. If you enjoy walking each morning, switch it with a swim or a bike ride a few times of week instead.

Workouts that increase our heart rate will help to strengthen the entire cardiovascular system. But when the same exercises are done repeatedly, our bodies tend to plateau, and the physical benefits decrease.  Over time, a lack of diversity can cause the body and mind to bore of repetitive workouts.

A good way to ward off a decline in muscle mass is through weight training. We’re not talking about heavy bodybuilding, but rather adding simple weight-based workouts into your weekly regimen.  Start small, doing bicep curls using light hand weights, and try a few repetitions of each exercise.

Improving core strength is a popular technique for reducing the risk of back or hip injuries.  Low impact workouts like Yoga or Pilates can assist with stretching tight areas, improving posture and stability, and developing lean muscle strength.

Rachel Schklar, Founder of Pilates North in Richmond Hill, Ontario says that, “when people over 50 understand how their bodies work and what feels good to them, they can take responsibility for their fitness.  They can feel confident to try different sports and activities. It is empowering to understand personal limitations and the possibilities.” Schklar also adds that while gyms filled with fit young people can be daunting, it’s important to ease into a new fitness program slowly, do some research, or take a tour of a studio or facility and see if it feels right.  

Light, regular exercise is generally considered a pillar of healthy living. When paired with a healthy diet becomes a means for keeping your immune system healthy along with the rest of your body.  Whether you’re young, creeping through middle-age, or enjoying retirement, its never too late to incorporate fitness into your lifestyle.

About the author:

Karen Wynne is a freelance writer, administrative professional, and fitness enthusiast who enjoys travelling, outdoor activities, and spending time with her family.




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