As people get older, it's important they remain active so they can, well, remain active. And the best way to do that is with regular stretching and exercise.
You don’t have to run marathons or pump iron like Arnold Schwarzenegger to stay healthy and maintain a decent quality of life, but you can’t just let those bones and muscles rest on the laurels of your youth. That's not only uncomfortable — it also means your bones and muscles will deteriorate faster.
“You need to keep moving,” said John Bobalik, Purdue Northwest exercise physiologist. “If you don’t, you lose your flexibility and you rust out.”
But you don’t need to workout 24 hours a day to keep active. Kaitlyn Miller, wellness coordinator at Porter-Starke Services, recommended engaging in 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity, such as walking, biking, swimming or other exercise just strenuous enough to make it difficult to sustain a normal conversation.
“The main goal is you want to maintain, if not improve, functional mobility,” she said. “You don’t have to do any crazy routine. You can do as little as 10 minutes a day to start. Resistance machines at a gym or water resistance exercises are excellent for an older person in order to maintain strength in the bones and keep up your strength and bone density.”
Bobalik said walking and biking are good, but combining them with strength training is important to prevent the loss of muscle mass. He said a person can lose 5 to 8 pounds of muscle mass a decade, and, after 50, it increases to 8 to 10 pounds as you slow down and become less active.
Not everyone can trot off to the gym or the fitness center to stay in shape, though that would be ideal to get proper supervision and advice on the activities best suited for each person. But Miller said it’s also possible to do things at home, like grabbing a soup can or a milk jug and lifting it.
“Think about things you are doing every day and add a little weight to it,” she said.
The important thing is not to overdo it, the experts warned. Bobalik cited the risk of back injury or pulled muscles from doing too much in addition to the overall soreness that comes with utilizing underused muscles.
“You can improve on what you have, but you can’t get back what you lost,” he said. “Don’t start on weights because you probably don’t know how to use them properly. Machines are safer and less intimidating and easier. After the machines, you could advance to weights.
“It’s better to continue exercising throughout your life rather than try to do it when you hit your 60s. You need to do something in your 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s so when you get to your 60s you have the flexibility of a 20-year-old instead of an 80-year-old."
Kris Rosario, assistant manager at Anytime Fitness in Schererville, said exercise can better your overall health and metabolism and keep off the fat. It can also improve balance.
“We offer a Purple Sneakers class for the elderly to work on their core,” Rosario said. “They do aerobics exercises to keep the heart and lungs healthy so you are better able to do daily tasks because you are not out of breath.”
George Zorzi, a retired police officer who works security, said he’s been working out since he was 31 and feels it has kept his parts functioning.
“I’ve been in several accidents, but I don’t have any pain or impingement,” said Zorzi, 64, of Schererville. “I love working out, and when you surround yourself with people who are motivated to exercise and diet properly, it spurs you on to do better and be better.
“I know of a guy who is 102 and is still riding his bike. I want to be that guy."