Active Aging Week Occurs Every October
Annually, the first week in October is Active Aging Week. This is an opportunity to educate our families, friends, patients, and communities on how to live healthy lives and help older adults maintain their vitality through active aging.
The good news is that our therapists have the ability to prescribe the most powerful medication in existence to maintain a healthy lifestyle: Exercise. If exercise could be reduced to a pill, it would become the most prescribed medication in history. The not-so-good news is that we don’t always self-prescribe this powerful intervention in our own lives.
Intensity and frequency of exercise
Here’s what the evidence shows: 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise is required to maintain overall health (in addition to proper diet and weight management). This is a minimum requirement as 300 minutes per week results in even greater health benefits. It’s also recommended that resistance training be included 2-3 days per week. Additionally, the intensity of exercise can be manipulated higher or lower thereby changing the number of minutes per week of exercise required (higher intensity = fewer minutes required).
The number one barrier to meeting exercise goals is always, “not enough time.” We all lead busy lives and sometimes life just gets in the way. Here are a few strategies to incorporate to overcome some of the common barriers to regular exercise.
Multiple exercise options
It is imperative to create multiple exercise opportunities. For example, consider both a treadmill in your garage and walking outside on nice days. Additionally, gym memberships have many affordable options and provide a social outlet, too. Keep dumbbell weights and exercise bands at home for resistance training, as well as a Yoga mat for stretching. YouTube can also be a great resource for exercise videos to assist with active aging.
Something is better than nothing
Some exercise on any given day is better than none at all. Don’t be discouraged if you can only get a few minutes of exercise on a given day–every little bit counts.
Prioritize exercise in your schedule
Have exercise be the first event you schedule each day. Use your phone and set reminders or try filling in a whiteboard calendar to keep you motivated. Consider wearing a FitBit or other watch that gives you reminders to complete your workout for the day. Keeping your schedule may require early morning or late night workouts. When traveling, the first items to pack should be workout clothes and athletic shoes. Most hotels these days have at least a small workout room with a treadmill and weights.
Incorporate exercise into your daily routine
Exercise opportunities are all around us! Consider using the stairs instead of escalators and elevators. Park far away in a parking lot when shopping. Take a walk at lunch, or a short afternoon walk to stretch your legs. Walk up a flight of stairs if you are able.
“There is no such thing as bad weather – only bad gear”
If you live in climate with extreme weather conditions, you learn that weather does not have to be a deal breaker for exercising outdoors. Rain? Use fenders on your bike and where a rain shell and rain pants. Dark? Walk with a headlight and mount front and rear lights on your bike. Additionally, wear reflective gear. Cold? Layer! A great fabric for this is wool. As you warm up, simply remove layers. Snow? Knobby mountain bike-type tires work well in the snow. You might also consider snow shoes as a way to still get a walk done. Extreme heat? Go on early morning walks or rides before the temperature climbs.
To stay motivated, think about participating in an event, like a fundraiser. Once you pay for the event and put it on your calendar, it serves as a constant reminder that you have this particular event for which to prepare. Even better – sign up with a friend and get ready for the event together. You are less likely to skip a training session if you know you will be letting down your friend.
Additionally, there are many social clubs that exist around exercise: walking, biking, and running clubs, to name just a few. It’s a great way to not only stay motivated, but make new friends with common interests.
The International Council on Active Aging (ICAA) is an association that leads, connects and defines the active-aging industry, supports organizations and professionals that develop wellness environments and services for adults over 50. Their website is a great resource for additional tips on active aging.