Exercise is important for health. It has many benefits, including improving immunity against diseases, lowering blood pressure and decreasing the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Yet even with all the benefits, it can be a struggle to start an exercise program and keep it going. With sound advice and tips, you can stop making excuses and start working toward a healthier retirement.
When starting an exercise program, your safety should be first and foremost. The body functions differently as it ages. Bones become weaker, balance may be compromised, the heart has a harder time pumping blood and muscles can lose strength and flexibility. It’s important to keep this in mind so you don’t hurt yourself.
Consult a doctor and/or a qualified professional with exercise credentials before starting a program. Discuss which areas need special attention and what to avoid. You should never be in pain when exercising. Stop immediately and see a doctor if you feel dizzy or short of breath, develop chest pain, break out in a cold sweat or experience pain. The old saying “no pain, no gain” doesn’t apply to exercise programs.
Many people simply don’t like to exercise and have trouble sticking to a program. A way to motivate yourself is to schedule your workouts as if they are doctor’s appointments or dinners with friends—put them in your diary or on your calendar and you won’t forget where you should be. If you exercise at the same time and day each week it will become routine and easier to stick with.
Another motivation tip is to incorporate an activity you like into your workout. If you’re a shopper, walk laps around a mall while looking at the windows. If you like meeting people, check out classes that you can do in a group such as yoga or water aerobics. Or if you love the sunrise and fresh air, plan an early-morning walk.
You can also use a vacation to exercise. Plan a holiday with a friend at a health resort where activities and healthy meals are included. Some of our favourite include Mirval in Tuscan, Arizona (www.miravalresorts.com), St. Anne’s Spa in Grafton, Ontario (www.steannes.com), and Hills Health Ranch at 108 Mile Ranch, British Columbia (www.thehillshealthranch.com).
Try to work healthy habits into your daily life. Take the stairs instead of the escalator, choose a parking space further from the store or walk on the treadmill while watching your favourite show. And be sure to challenge yourself! Walk for 10 minutes the first day, then increase it to 15 minutes the next, then 20 and so on until you reach your target.
Stay fit. Life is too exciting to spend it being inactive. If you start slowly but consistently, you will soon find that your couch-potato days are far behind you.
Magdalena Filipowich is a former editorial intern at Solutions magazine.