It is never to late to get fit and it is even more important to make fitness a priority as we mature. Many of the common complaints associated with the aging process are joint stiffness, weight gain, fatigue, loss of bone mass, and among others. Most can be prevented by adopting a regular plan of physical fitness and exercising. Keeping your muscles conditioned and your heart strong and efficient can offset these minor complaints and may help reduce your risk of more serious conditions, such as hypertension, heart disease and circulatory problems.
Muscle allows us to move around and helps support our skeletal system. As we age, muscle and bone tissue tends to lose mass and weaken, which may lead to poor posture and limits our range of motion. To prevent this from happening, it is helpful to do muscular conditioning and flexibility exercises.
Muscle and bone will grow stronger by working against progressively increased resistance. The more demand you put on a muscle over a period of time, the larger and stronger it will become to meet the demands. Exercises such as weightlifting, leg-lifts and standard push-ups are all muscle strengthening exercises. Like an unused rubber band, unused muscles can become stiff and tight. By gently stretching your muscles throughout the day, you can remain limber and improve your ability to move through a wide range of motion.
As we age, the heart muscle becomes more fatty and less muscular too. The insides of the blood vessels narrow, and the elastic-like fibers inside the arteries begin to stiffen. To keep your heart in condition, heart-strengthening aerobic exercise is of primary importance. Walking is one of the best cardiovascular conditioners because it can be done by almost anyone regardless of age or physical condition. The key to successful walking is to walk briskly enough to keep your heart beating in its target heart range (THR) for 20-30 minutes.
To obtain your calculated THR:
- subtract your age from 220, this is your MHR or maximum heart rate
- multiply this number by 60% or by .6, this gives your the "low end"
- then multiply the MHR by 80% or .8, this gives you the "high end".
Start slowly and gradually build up your pace until you can exercise comfortably within your THR and participate at least 3 times a week.
The easiest way to find your heart rate is to take it from your "radial" (located at the wrist) or the "carotid" (in the neck) arteries for 15 seconds and then multiply by 4. Do not use the index finger or thumb to take your pulse for they both have pulses which could cause inaccurate readings.
Contrary to what a lot of people believe, the faster your heart beats, does not necessarily mean you are going to lose weight. In other words, if you are able to keep your heart rate at the 85% number (which is high-end) you will only be able to maintain that for a short period of time before your body fatigues. But if you keep it at the 60% number (which is the low-end) your body will be able to go longer, thus enabling you to burn off more calories. Usually the first 10-15 minutes burns off carbohydrates that are converted to energy. So use that as your warm-up.