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Just the Right Age to Get a Move On

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Many health problems that we think of as a part of the aging process--such as lower back pain and heart disease--may actually be related to lack of activity. That’s why staying active helps people stay healthy as they get older. People who incorporate exercise into their daily routine tend to feel better and stay independent longer.

The key is varying activities to strengthen the heart and lungs and to keep muscles flexible and strong. Here are some tips to get you started. But you must, of course, check with your doctor before undertaking any new program.

* Aerobic exercise: Activities such as dancing, biking, walking and low-impact aerobics help the heart and lungs by making them work harder. Take it slowly, and work up to 20 minutes of such exercise, about three times a week.

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* Stretching: It helps keep the muscles and joints from getting stiff. Gentle stretches (your health-care team can provide some guidance), yoga and tai chi can all help. Try to stretch five to 10 minutes before and after exercising.

* Strength activities: Working with dumbbells, for instance, slows the loss of muscle and helps maintain bone strength. Again, your health-care team should be able to provide some insight about what weights to use. Consider strength exercises two or three times a week.

Some additional advice:

* Don’t be too anxious to see results. Start slowly and increase your speed and time a little each week.

* Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes for exercising. And be sure to wear sturdy lace-up shoes made specifically for the activities you choose.

* Keep yourself hydrated. Drink plenty of water before and after you exercise.

* Go for indoor activities when it’s cold and damp or hot and humid outside.

* Don’t be a martyr. If you feel lightheaded, short of breath, have chest pain or muscle cramps during an activity, stop and rest.

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Source: StayWell Co.

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