Elder man flexing his arm muscle

Throughout history, the arrival of spring eagerly has been welcomed by virtually everyone besides skiers and snowboarders. There also are a few other exceptions, such as a St. Louis pediatric orthopedic surgeon who dreads the annual rush of injuries. With nicer weather, millions of children start climbing trees, riding bikes, and skateboarding again, inevitably leading to many broken bones.

For senior citizens, those specific types of injuries are not very likely to have been caused by those specific activities, but other seasonal activities still pose risks for elder adults who start exercising after a long and sedentary winter. As exciting as it is to bring out the dusty golf clubs or yard tools, a sudden return to outdoor pastimes can have painful side effects.

However, that does not mean anyone should ever be reluctant to pursue physical activities. In fact, quite the contrary is true. Huge amounts of data exist to support the importance of exercise among senior adults. In 2018, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued its Physical Activity Guidelines Report, with a detailed, scientific analysis of the disease-prevention and health-promotion benefits of physical activity. The report states that strong evidence has demonstrated a significant relationship between greater time spent in sedentary behavior and higher all-cause mortality rates. In other words, get off the couch.

Exercise also is good for your brain

In addition to describing the proven disease-fighting benefits of regular exercise (including reduced threats of stroke, heart problems, and diabetes), the HHS report asserts that effective physical activity can help individuals sleep better, feel more alert, reduce anxiety, and much more. Other research supports claims that continued physical activities can help senior citizens ward off the effects of dementia.

University of Illinois studies among older adults (average age 66.5) showed a direct correlation between aerobic fitness and brain performance. The researchers found that exercise improves a variety of distinct mental functions, from simple cognitive processes –such as reaction times–to more complex-thinking processes which involve planning and organizing.

However, a 2016 report by Time magazine noted that only 20 percent of Americans currently get the recommended 150 minutes of strength and cardiovascular physical activity a week, and that more than half of all Baby Boomers state that they do no exercise whatsoever. Those are frightening statistics for an aging population.

Get up and get moving, but carefully

Given the vital benefits of exercise and other physical activities, particularly among elder adults, the next logical steps are to generate motivation and to identify the what, when, and how of a suitable fitness regimen. The good news is that there are many options to choose from, and any activity which discourages sedentary behavior has health benefits. Your fitness program does not have to be strenuous.

Among senior citizens, some of the most popular physical activities are walking, gardening, swimming, golfing, and dancing. Other more intense exercises include tennis, racquetball, jogging, and bicycling. According to the Senior Softball Association, more than 1.5 million Americans over the age of 40 participate regularly in organized softball leagues across the country.

No matter activity appeals to you, you always should keep several related things in mind, especially if you have been away from an exercise program for a while. The National Institute of Aging offers useful advice to follow before exercising – including an emphasis on not overdoing it.  

More specifically, it is important to start slowly with any activity, and be sure to warm up first. The AARP provides a list of 13 simple stretching and loosening exercises designed to reduce strain on your back, legs, hips, and core, and to help minimize the chances of hurting yourself. It also is important to wear proper shoes and clothing, and to drink water before, during, and after you exercise.

Then remember to listen to your body. Pace yourself. If you hurt, stop. Although your breathing may speed up, you still should be able to talk.

Be thinking about the long term

If you are significantly older, AARP suggests you always carry your identification and emergency-contact information when doing any physical activity, in case of emergency situations.

On a related note, it equally is critical to have your personal financial and legal affairs in order, just in case. The experienced elder law attorneys at TuckerAllen provide affordable smart solutions for estate plans, wills, trusts, Powers of Attorney, and other safeguards.

The experienced elder law attorneys at TuckerAllen specialize in affordable smart solutions for wills, trusts, Power of Attorney documents, and other essential aspects of estate plans, including long-term provisions for special-needs adults. 

TuckerAllen also offers complimentary educational webinars, where we explain a range of estate plan options and asset protection programs, all in terms that are easy to understand.

Spring Into Fitness and Feel Better Fast
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