Get Active, Get Healthy!
By Randa Anderson-Stice, regional president of Senior Products for Humana in Colorado, Colorado Springs LIVING WELL Magazine
Regular exercise is important to the physical and mental health of everyone, and becomes increasingly essential as we age. Physical fitness not only produces long-term health benefits but also boosts energy levels, improves mood and increases confidence.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends adults 65 and older get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intense aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days per week. While that may seem like a lot, it only amounts to 20 to 30 minutes each day and even can be broken down into three 10-minute sessions.
Although many adults in the 50 plus age bracket may think it’s too late to be physically active, it’s important to realize that you can benefit from even small bouts of movement, says William Downham, M.D., medical officer of Senior Products for Humana in Colorado. “It can be surprisingly easy to sneak a little bit of extra activity into our lives each day, whether we’re walking the dog, doing yard work, cleaning the house, or even parking in a spot that’s a little further from the store,” he says.
Now, you can take those positive habits and push yourself to do more. Go dancing, opt for the stairs instead of the elevator, take a swim or walk a few laps around the mall. Reaping the rewards of physical activity doesn’t necessarily require strenuous workouts or spending hours at the gym. It’s about adding more movement and activity to your life, even in small ways.
If you need motivation, find an exercise buddy or join a class at your local fitness center. An “exercise buddy” not only can make activity more fun, it can also double your willpower.
Downham says it’s beneficial to check with your health insurance provider to see if they offer discounts or free classes in your area. For example, health benefits company Humana teams up with Healthways SilverSneakers® to provide Humana Medicare Advantage members with free memberships at participating fitness centers. This partnership allows members to use workout equipment, take fitness classes like Zumba and yoga, attend health educational seminars and join fun social events. By participating in scheduled exercise classes or even joining a neighborhood walking group, you’ll have the chance to socialize with others on a more frequent basis and get in the groove with scheduled physical activities.
In addition to the physical benefits, Downham says exercise can have many psychological and emotional benefits as well. “Regular physical activity is a great way to reduce anxiety and take your mind off of whatever you may be nervous about –whether it’s your health, bank account or a strenuous relationship – because exercise produces endorphins that help to improve your mood and reduce depression,” he says. You’ll be surprised what a great distraction an activity can be and how it will boost your self confidence, too!
Worried about memory loss? Exercise also helps to keep your brain active, which can prevent loss of memory and cognitive decline while also slowing the progression of brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. With 5.4 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s and nearly half of people aged 85 and older battling the disease, it’s important for everyone – regardless of their age – to be proactive and participate in physical activity. Downham says exercise produces “neurotropic peptides,” which act as joy juice for the brain, boosting new connections and even new brain cells.
Above all, be safe and keep well hydrated. Be sure to have fun and stay motivated when choosing an activity. If you do something you enjoy, scheduling time for exercise won’t seem like a chore. While it’s easy to get discouraged about aches and pains, remember that the effort is worth the benefits you’ll see – and feel – in your life.
For more information on Humana’s senior products in Colorado, call 866-355-6152.
Randa Anderson-Stice is the regional president of Senior Products for Humana in Colorado.