Thanks to breakthroughs in medicine and technology, Americans are living longer than ever before. But that also means it's even more important for older adults to get regular exercise to get the most out of those extra years, says fitness expert Bob Bonham, founder of Strong and Shapely Gym in East Rutherford, N.J.
He offers the following informational nuggets and pointers for adults age 50 and older (the so-called baby boomers) interested in getting -- and staying -- fit throughout their golden years.
> Exercise helps ward off ailments associated with aging. Exercise strengthens bones and lowers the risk of osteoporosis, improves muscle tone and memory, increases heart and lung efficiency, and lowers blood pressure. It also improves digestion, gives one better balance and coordination (which helps prevent falls), and helps prevent diabetes and arthritis.
> Get your doctor's approval. It's especially important for adults over age 50 to get a physical and your doctor's approval before beginning any exercise program to determine which forms of exercise are best for you and to detect any medical condition that could make certain workouts too dangerous.
> Less is more. Those over age 50 don't need to spend several hours a week in a gym to get results and stay healthy. Exercising for just 20 to 30 minutes three or four times a week can be helpful, even if you're only doing light activities like gardening, cleaning the house, or walking.
> Look for classes and groups designed for older adults. Many health clubs offer special classes for members over age 50. You might feel more comfortable working out with people your own age, and the classes are geared toward the special needs of older adults.
> Don't overdo on weight training.While weight training is as essential as cardiovascular exercise, older Americans can benefit from very light weightlifting (as little as three to 10 pounds, in many cases) to strengthen bones and muscles and burn extra calories. And don't forget to train your legs: Keeping your lower body strong can help prevent falls and dangerous hip injuries.