For someone who has never exercised much or who has had health/mobility issues in recent years, there might be significant barriers to starting a “senior fitness routine”. The reality is that most cultures with high levels of longevity and good senior fitness/health don’t have tons of fitness centers or people using gyms and trainers. They mostly just incorporate activity into their daily lives (and have always done so).
You will find older residents of places like Japan and Italy walking most places (or taking public transportation, which still involves significantly more activity than driving door-to-door), gardening, watching (and playing with) grandchildren and taking part in activities like dance and sports.
Do you know about “blue zones”? This term was coined to describe areas of the world where people live measurably longer lives. These zones have been carefully studied for common characteristics. In other words, these areas have already discovered the “fountain of youth”.
Here are the common longevity characteristics of the “blue zones”:
- Plant-based diet (semi-vegetarianism in all but one region) with high intake of legumes
- Social engagement (family ties as very central and engaged with the community and social life)
- Less smoking and moderate alcohol intake
- Stress reduction, focus on spirituality and/or purpose
- Constant moderate physical activity (an integral part of everyday life)
There is always someone out there trying to sell you the secret to a long, healthy life and often there’s a new super food or exercise trend that promises a miracle. But, the truth is that the data from these diverse blue zones tell us all we really need to know. As part of our active aging series we’ll share tips for how you can incorporate these lessons into your lifestyle (and resources to help). Today, let’s tackle realistic ways for increasing physical activity (i.e. “senior fitness”).
- Do something fun! Customize activity/exercise to what you enjoy. Do you like dancing? Do you prefer solitary time (a peaceful walk may be just the thing for you)? Are you competitive (might be time to train for a race or do a goals-focused workout)? Some types of exercise are especially good for balance (e.g. tai chi, senior fitness balance programs) while others increase flexibility or can help with back pain, so if you have specific concerns you can try something that addresses your needs.
- Find small ways to incorporate activity into your daily routine. When I lived in Spain I didn’t have a gym membership but I also didn’t have a car and I got more exercise than ever. I took my little shopping cart all around town on errands and went for long strolls on the beach and in the parks (where free “outdoor gyms” prevail too). When I came back to the U.S., I kept up a bit of that lifestyle by biking to my library and gym and walking to nearby shops.
- Get outside when possible!
- Do it with a group/friend. The blue zones also had social engagement in common. It is common to see grannies (and grandpas) dancing or doing tai chi in parks in Asia (as well as playing games and engaging in discussions) and the daily stroll with family is part of the healthy Mediterranean lifestyle. Our EasyLiving caregivers make great exercise buddies and activity companions!
Contact us for help with active aging, staying safe at home or caregiving assistance. We’re here 24/7 for you (727-447-5845)!