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Exercises You Can Live With

Mary Anne Hess

Fitness Over Fifty: An Exercise Guide from the National Institute on Aging

Book |  DVD

If your pre-retirement days were spent negotiating miles of school corridors and stairs, coaching sports, or keeping pace with rambunctious kindergarteners, you may not have needed to give much thought to a daily exercise routine.

Now that your daily schedule may have taken on a more leisurely pace, it’s more important, say the experts at the National Institute on Aging (NIA), to make regular physical activity a part of your life.

To jump start you, the NIA, in conjunction with Healthy Living Books and Hatherleigh Press, has produced Fitness over Fifty, an easy-to-follow guide to exercises you can do at home, without joining a gym or spending a considerable sum for the latest in fitness fashions.

Growing older doesn’t have to equate with losing strength or the ability to carry on with your favorite activities, say the authors. They recommend a fitness plan that touches four areas—endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility.

With this book in hand, you’ll have no excuses for a sedentary lifestyle—even if your home is a studio apartment in snowy, sub-zero Syracuse or hot, humid Houston. For most exercises all you’ll need is a chair, a pillow, a towel and a bit of floor space.

 For some, you might want to add hand and ankle weights from your local sporting goods store, but the book says milk jugs filled with sand or socks filled with beans work just as well.

Inside the book, you’ll find step-by-step instructions in large print for aging eyes. Photographs demonstrate precise body positions for everything from the biceps curl to a wrist stretch (try it after a few hours at your computer keyboard). 

Motivation, of course, is the key to staying fit so the book contains a chapter on “How to Keep Going.” It recommends some obvious motivators, such as getting an exercise buddy, listening to music or recorded books while you walk or jog and rewarding yourself when you reach a pre-determined goal.

More unusual ideas include giving yourself physical activity homework assignments or thinking of your exercise sessions as appointments to mark on your calendar.

Interspersed throughout are anec-dotes in which seniors share how exer-cise keeps them healthier despite such challenges as Parkinson’s disease or the death of a spouse.

You’d expect to find a nutrition section in any fitness book and this one is no exception. There’s advice on a balanced diet and a warning about spending hard-earned retirement savings on supplements that promise a return to youthful energy.

The appendix is full of templates you can use to set up a weekly schedule and keep a record of your exercises. There’s also a chart suggesting how much exercise you should do each week.

If you’re already running marathons or even 10K’s, this book isn’t for you. But, if your motivation waxes and wanes and your walking pace often falls far short of brisk, you might want to keep a copy on your coffee table. It could be all the inspiration you need for a vigorous retirement.


Consumer Reports says, Make It Real

Perhaps the important feature of the fitness book we’re reviewing this month is that it’s practical. No more New Year’s resolutions that get abandoned by February because they were too hard to carry out.

To go along with that, here are some practical tips from Consumer Reports.

Their survey of nearly 22,000 readers found that the single most effective strategy that successful exercisers use to keep themselves doing it is to pick the same time of day: make it routine.

The number two strategy is to exercise near home or work: make it easy.

After that came exercising outdoors, joining a health club, and exercising with friends or family.

Consumer Reports says you should “aim to exercise for at least 150 minutes a week, preferably over at least five days, at a level that’s at least moderately intense” in order to reap the health benefits of exercising. Those benefits include a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, stroke, and high blood pressure.

If you want to lose weight, though, you’ll need to exercise twice as much.

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