"Make yourself a priority, and rediscover what it feels like to feel good.”
— Gina McDonald, Senior Health Coach, Capital Blue Crosss

An estimated 31 million adults aged 50 or older are inactive, meaning they get no physical activity beyond that of daily living. Inadequate levels of physical activity are associated with $117 billion in annual healthcare costs in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The problem with fitness is that many of us are not sure where to start or what to do. Others believe the fitness hill to be too steep, and the journey too painful.

The reality, however, is that fitness is for everyone regardless of age, health, or access to fancy equipment. The hill to fitness may be steep, but you don’t have to climb it all in one day, and you don’t have to torture yourself to get there.

Most of us are not training for the Olympics; we are training for life. As you create a fitness plan that is right for you, there are a few basic things to keep in mind.

Three Basics of Fitness

A good fitness plan includes three basic forms of exercise: cardiovascular (cardio), strength, and stretching.

Cardio: The Department of Health and Human Services “Physical Guidelines for Americans 2nd Edition” recommends 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week for adults. This activity level provides several health and quality of life benefits:

  • Improved sleep and executive function – processes in the brain that help us plan, organize, initiate tasks, and control emotions.

  • Improved memory and processing speed.

  • Reduced risk of clinical depression.

  • Reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.

  • Reduced blood pressure.

  • Reduced risk of chronic conditions including osteoarthritis, hypertension, and Type 2 diabetes.

Strength: Whether using fitness equipment, resistance bands, or body weight exercises at home or in a gym, shoot for two nonconsecutive days of strength training per week with 48 hours between workouts to allow muscles to refresh and rebuild.

A circuit approach is a simple and efficient way to get a full-body workout that hits the key muscle groups – shoulders, chest, back, biceps, triceps, core, and legs. Perform one exercise per muscle group, adjusting the duration or repetitions according to your ability. Repeat the circuit a second time.

Remember to listen to your body. Some muscle tightness and soreness is normal with exercise, but pain, especially joint pain, is a signal to immediately stop or replace an exercise.

Stretching: Stretching after exercise yields many benefits, including improved circulation, less muscle soreness after and between workouts, and increased range of motion in our joints. It also allows us to cool down after exercise.

Achievable Goals

Performing at least 150 minutes per week of aerobic activity, and two days per week of strength training, are worthwhile goals that can yield great health benefits.

Tally your minutes of activity each week. Squeeze in what you can when you can –15 minutes here, 20 or 30 minutes there. If at the end of the week you’ve fallen short of those fitness thresholds, don’t be too hard on yourself. Slow and steady wins the fitness race. The journey provides benefits.

Whether it is a walk around the block, an online exercise class, a visit to the gym, or going up and down the stairs in your house, build movement into your day. Make yourself a priority, and rediscover what it feels like to feel good.