How Older Adults Can Stay in Great Shape

SP004808A serious health threat will lead to premature disability or death for more than 2.5 million Americans over the next 10 years. Ironically, most of them have the medicine for the cure but they’re not using it.

The threat is physical inactivity; the medicine is exercise.

“There are a multitude of common diseases that are made worse if people are physically inactive, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke,” said Daniel Adair, MD, co-medical director of Memorial’s SportsCare and a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with Springfield Clinic.

Keeping up an exercise routine becomes more challenging as you get older.

“We’re all aware that things change as we get older. Some of these are part of the normal aging process, but many of them are simply due to inactivity,” Dr. Adair said. “Maintaining our activity in some form will do more to improve our overall health, well-being and enjoyment of life more than almost any other intervention that we could do as we age.”

Your flexibility, strength, aerobic capacity and balance all slowly deteriorate as you age, Dr. Adair said. Recognizing these slow declines is the key to implementing an appropriate exercise program.

“As we age, we need to be more thoughtful about our exercise program,” he said. “And we need to be more purposeful and more accountable to ourselves to maintain consistency.”

Dr. Adair suggests three steps for older adults to take in order to have an effective exercise program:

  •  Have a plan. Document in a book your progress and methodically progress according to your plan.
  • Diversify your workouts. Flexibility, strength, aerobic activity and balance should all be included in your regular workouts.
  • Be realistic. If you’re not in shape, it will take a while to get back into shape. A slow, methodical approach is infinitely better than trying too much too fast.

Older adults must remember to live in the present. A good first step is to see your family physician and “get a good physical and make sure that all the parts are ready to begin an exercise regimen,” Dr. Adair said. After that, some folks may find what they need by reading a book, working with a personal trainer or enrolling in a structured class, depending on what works for their individual needs.

The other key to success is time management.

“We all have a lot of obligations, including family and work, so we have to prioritize our physical activity if we want to be successful,” Dr. Adair said. “One of the first hurdles to overcome is to realize we will all make excuses, but we need to make a true commitment to getting in shape and making that our long-term goal.”

SportsCare will host a free seminar, “Everyday Athlete: Introduction to Adult Fitness,” which will focus on how adults can overcome age and health conditions to stay on top of their game. The seminar will begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 28, at SportsCare, 4550 W. Iles Ave. To register, visit or call 217-788-3333.

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