Physical Fitness Article:

Get motivated to get moving:
How seniors can start to exercise regularly

Everyone knows that regular physical activity helps older adults feel better, live longer and enjoy life more. Still, it's hard for many seniors to find the motivation to exercise.

"Many older adults, especially those who are experiencing pain or discomfort from physical conditions, worry that they cannot exercise safely. Others assume physical activity must be strenuous to be beneficial. Still others have lived a sedentary lifestyle for so long, they simply do not know how to start," says Anne Shumway-Cook, PhD, a physical therapist and University of Washington researcher who has studied physical activity and aging.

"In fact, research has shown that moderate physical activity performed for 30 minutes on most days of the week has a significant impact on health and quality of life for adults," she adds. "And exercise can be performed safely by even the frailest and oldest of individuals."

The Healthy Aging Partnership, a coalition of 30 not-for-profit and public organizations dedicated to the health and well-being of seniors, offers these suggestions to help older adults get motivated to get moving.

Determine how important physical activity is to you.
What benefits are you seeking? Improved health? A better lifestyle? A longer life? Studies have proven that regular exercisers have a 48 to 50 percent lower risk of death than sedentary seniors. Physical activity prevents diseases such as diabetes, obesity and osteoporosis. It improves lifestyle, mental health, quality of life and mobility.
Get your physician's advice.
Ask for help in determining what type of physical activity will best suit your health and overall condition.
Choose activities that match your interests.
Do you love to shop? Then join a mall-walking group. Interested in making new friends? Look into a fitness class at a nearby senior center. Are you a nature lover? Take a hike in a park near your home. If you have physical limitations, a class in "chair aerobics" or light resistance training might be for you.
Start slowly and progress gradually.
If you have lived a sedentary lifestyle, begin by adding little bits of exercise to your daily routine. For example, park your car at the far end of the grocery store parking lot instead of close to the door or take the stairs up one floor instead of using the elevator. Consider some form of exercise at small intervals of 5 or 10 minutes a few times a day instead of all at once. Set small, reachable goals and chart your progress.
Consider a buddy or group for support.
Research shows that people are more likely to stick with exercise routines if they make a commitment to others. Ask a friend to join you on morning walks or at twice-weekly dance lessons. Recruit neighbors to do regular gardening at each other's homes. There are many options for group fitness activities. Call the Healthy Aging Partnership's free, confidential information and assistance line at 1-844-348-KING (1-844-348-5464) for suggestions.
Don't get discouraged!
If you start a program then "relapse" into inactivity, don't be too hard on yourself. Many successful people had to try more than once to succeed! Start again and reward yourself for your renewed motivation.

For more information on living options as we age - or for free and confidential answers to all your questions about life as an older adult - call the Healthy Aging Partnership's toll-free information and assistance line at 1-844-348-KING (1-844-348-5464) or visit the Web site at www.4elders.org.

HAP is generously supported by HAP partner agencies, Puget Sound Energy and the Comprehensive Health Education Foundation.