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Senior Fitness

Bob Barker, beloved host of The Price Is Right, recently made headlines by announcing his retirement after 35 years. "Barker irreplaceable!" blared the entertainment tabloids. And yet, Mr. Barker celebrated his 82nd birthday a few months ago.

Eighty-two! Who really are the "seniors" among us? And what does "senior" mean in today's world? Certainly, America's population is aging by the minute. Baby boomers are rapidly closing in on their 60th birthdays. But most of those in this huge group (more than 76 million)1 are resisting the concept of "getting older" and searching for ways to stay healthy and fit and well.

Fitness programs provide a major answer to these challenges. Yet, there are many questions. What to do? How to get started? What if I have health issues - can I still get fit?

Before we dive in, some special concerns need attention. Baby boomers and those even older must address decreased flexibility and possibly - temporarily - decreased stamina. Medical issues, including osteoporosis2, high blood pressure3, and diabetes, as well as overweight/obesity, must be considered when beginning a new fitness plan.

The bottom line - have a complete physical exam with your chiropractic physician and/or family physician, and make sure you're good to go. Start slowly and easily, making gradual progress, and adding intensity and duration over the first several months.

Begin a walking-for-fitness program. Walking is fantastic exercise! Do 10 minutes at an easy pace the first day, build up to walking around the block, gradually building up over a 12-week period to a brisk 30-minute walk.

Also, begin lifting weights. Many helpful books are available, or ask a friend who knows what they're doing to show you the ropes. Start slowly, carefully, gradually. Train your upper body and lower body on separate days. Make sure you're focusing, paying attention, and working within yourself!

Nutrition is just as important as exercise in regaining the level of fitness we need to live healthy, long lives. Eating right requires some mental toughness, and it may take a while to build new habits. The payoff comes quickly, though, and is tremendously empowering.

We want to be fit for the rest of our lives. How to keep it all going? Here are a few tips from the fitness front lines -
• Writing down a weekly plan. This keeps your workout and nutritional goals fresh. They're right there, on your desk or refrigerator, where you see them every day.
• Vary your routines. Change your workouts every few weeks. Ride a bike if you've been walking. Use dumbbells instead of machines. Vary your fruits and vegetables, and vary your sources of protein.
• Set up a buddy system or join a fitness club. The support of a group of friends who share your lifestyle goals, can make a big difference.

And, most importantly, have fun!

1MetLife Mature Market Institute Analysis, U.S. Census Bureau, 2000.
2Carter ND, et al: Community-based exercise program reduces risk factors for falls in 65- to 75-year-old women with osteoporosis: randomized controlled trial. Canadian Medical Association Journal 67(9): 997-1004, 2002.
3Staessen JA et al: Life style as a blood pressure determinant. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 89(9): 484-489, 1996.

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