Our exercise habits change as we do. As we grow and age, we slow down. The CDC reports that only 39 percent of Arkansans between the ages of 45 and 54 achieve 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week, the recommended standard. By the time we’ve hit our senior years, we’ve gotten used to a mostly sedentary lifestyle, so it’s easy to write off exercise as something we once did in our youth but no longer need.

However, studies show that the opposite is true. As we age, we lose muscle mass and bone density. Staying active and strong can help mitigate those health issues that slow us down and prevent problems like diabetes and heart disease. Studies even show a link between exercise and mental sharpness.

So, let go of the excuses. Physical activity is important, and possible, no matter how old you are or how long it’s been since you last picked up a weight. Here are three basic tips to help you jump back into an active lifestyle, regardless of your life stage and ability.

1. Find what works for you. ­

Don’t get caught up in the hype around gym memberships and CrossFit if that’s not your thing. Instead, try to incorporate movement into your favorite hobbies — like walks outside, gardening, dancing, sports or yoga. If you’re like many other moms and older women who have a hard time balancing social and work life, combine them. Call your friends and start a walking or running group. Having friends committed to getting active with you will hold you accountable, and you know you’ll be entertained.

2. Try low-intensity strength training.

The CDC reports that
only 39% of Arkansans
between the ages of 45 and 54
achieve 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week, the recommended standard.

As we get older, we lose muscle mass, which can make normal daily activities more difficult. Lifting weights is an easy and simple way to prevent muscle loss, but you can also use elastic bands, body weight and even canned food to keep your muscles strong. Focus on your main muscle areas: arms, back, chest and legs. According to WebMD, it’s great to choose multiple different exercises and aim for at least one set of each with eight to 12 reps.

3. Stretch regularly.

Strength is important, but so is flexibility. Exercises that stretch your joints and muscles like yoga, Pilates and tai chi are simple and easy to do anywhere with no equipment. Stretching can help build balance and relieve joint pain. Plus, stretching-based exercises like yoga allow you to modify poses to account for arthritis pain, limited mobility or injuries. Of course, don’t push it! Straining or twisting muscles could have an adverse effect and cause injuries. Always consult your doctor before trying new workouts.

Lubna Maruf, M.D., medical director at QualChoice Health Insurance, is a graduate of Aga Khan Medical University in Pakistan and completed her residency at Michael Reese Hospital and Medical Center, affiliated with the University of Illinois at Chicago.

She has over 20 years of experience in internal medicine and health care administration.

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