The sun is out and you should be outside. Have you thought about meeting friends at the park or at the community bike trail? Make your social hour count; exercise and visit at the same time.
If you haven’t ridden in a long time or feel that your balance is a little “iffy” you might not be ready to dust off the old bike in the garage, but don’t give up on the idea. Bicycle manufacturers have kept up with the times, and you can find dozens of models to meet your needs.
Bicycling can make you stronger, healthier, and more independent than ever before. This perfect exercise is easy on the joints, builds muscle and provides a good aerobic workout.
Not only that, but bicycling is easier than ever:
• More rider friendly bikes available, including bikes with electric motors that you can kick on or off for longer journeys.
• Folding bikes make transporting and storing easier.
• Recumbent bikes if you are troubled with back or neck pain.
• Hand powered bikes for those who have lost use of legs.
• Tricycles if you need extra stability or storage space for trips to the grocery store.
Your bike should be the vehicle you are most comfortable operating. Look for one that puts the least amount of stress on your body.
You can bike at any age. Speed isn’t everything. For the older rider it isn’t all about pain and perspiration, but about getting exercise and meeting up with friends.
Safety is still important; learn the rules of the road and be aware of your surroundings.
• Wear a helmet even if you are just tootling along.
• Don’t wear use clips that could trap your feet in the pedal cups.
• Ride with a friend and have your phone with you.
• Carry a water bottle and take frequent breaks.
Bicycling isn’t just for children any more. People of all ages are using bicycles for transportation as well as recreational and social purposes.
Gym rats love to throw around fancy words like “six-pack abs” and “buns of steel,” but lately everyone is talking about “core muscles.” What in the world are “core muscles”?
Seniors have a lot to worry about. It is hard to think about six-pack abs and buns of steel when you realize that you are getting smaller and your clothes don’t fit. You aren’t as tall or as strong as you were just a few years ago. You know that you need to exercise but you may not know where to start.
Core muscle strength and independent living go hand in hand. It is time to learn whether this is the latest craze or something that you should be paying attention to.
The core, or the center of the body, is protected by muscles that wrap around the pelvis and trunk like a big girdle. These are the core muscles. They may not be as visible or as flashy as some of the other muscle groups but they have a big job to do. Posture, stability, balance, and a strong pain-free back depend on these muscles. Many physical activities depend on the strength and stability of these big muscles.
Therapists recommend activities that strengthen and balance the core muscles. Yoga and Tai Chi come to mind but another popular discipline that you might want to explore is Pilates.
It is up to you to conquer your fears and find an exercise program that you can enjoy. Try not to be intimidated when you start looking around. You can and will find gentle senior friendly versions of all of these disciplines. Exercises is not all about achieving a flat stomach, but about strengthening the muscles that you use every day.
Check with your health care team and get their blessing; they will recommend classes and therapies to get you started. Your local senior center, recreation center, YMCA, and many of the major fitness chains have classes available. Improving mobility and fall prevention is a big deal for seniors.
Please feel free to share your success stories with the rest of us.
When we were kids, just a few years ago, our aches, pains and sprains responded nicely to rest, ice, compression and elevation. All designed to decrease swelling and hasten the healing process. In a few days we would be fine and ready to move on. It’s a bit different now; as a senior you know that a sprained ankle, a sore back, or a tender knee can still bother you a year later.
It’s bad enough dealing with pain after an injury, but when you stiffen up from sitting in one position too long or wake up hurting all over, it gets old in a hurry.
We still feel young and we are as active as we have ever been, but something has happened. We learn that muscles, tendons, ligaments, and connective tissue lose flexibility as we get older; if we want to be comfortable and we want to keep moving we have to figure a few things out.
Talk to a member of your health care team about ways to improve strength and flexibility. It is very likely that they will recommend yoga, or give you a series of exercises based on yoga poses. There is a reason why people have been doing these very same stretching exercises for over 3,000 years; they work.
It is unfortunate that many of the people who need flexibility exercises the most (the injured, elderly, overweight and less fit individuals) feel intimidated by the idea.
They may think that yoga is for young, agile athletes who can bend themselves into pretzels; not something older people could possibly do, but don’t give up so readily. There are many styles of yoga, or exercise groups like Stretch and Pray, that can help you achieve your goals. Yoga is still yoga even if you use a chair, a pillow, a blanket, or a variety of yoga props to ease you into nice therapeutic stretches.
Look for videos or classes that use the words gentle, senior, chair, or therapeutic in the title. No matter what you call it, gentle stretching is the perfect way to start your day.
It is time to rethink Medical Alert Systems. The “I’ve fallen and can’t get up” commercials all point to a frail elderly clientele, but where do the rest of us fit in?
My niece, a nurse in her 50s, wrote to tell me that she fell in her kitchen last week. She said “I slipped and fell hard, hard enough to make me realize how lucky I had been. My cell phone was in the living room, I was on vacation so not expected at work, and I have no close neighbors. If the fall had been related to my diabetes or heart condition I would have been out of luck. It is very possible that I wouldn’t have been found until the following Tuesday when a friend was due to come over.”
Should you use an alert system? If you live alone, are at risk for falling for any reason, or like to hike, jog or walk where the terrain is uneven, you need to have some sort of contingency plan. Your cell phone may not be enough. A cell phone is not waterproof and you probably do not carry it with you at all times. Admit it; you spend more time looking for your cell phone than using it. A Medical Alert bracelet may be the answer. The key is remembering to wear it; an alert system is only effective if you have it on. You should wear it in the shower, when sleeping, cooking or walking outside.
Wearing an alert bracelet will not make you look old. A lot of people, regardless of age, are wearing bracelets that track activity, are GPS locators and/or medical alert buttons. They look like an ordinary wrist watch (yes, most of them tell the time too) but they do so much more.
Medical alert systems are not just for the frail elderly. Wearing a medical alert device does not label you as “old”. All it really means is that you are smart enough to take care of yourself.
Are you the life of the party or are you the “sad sack” sitting in the corner feeling out of place and out of sorts? Not everyone is programmed to be the life of the party, but feeling “down in the dumps” all of time is not normal either. You may be suffering from depression, or, you may have just forgotten what it is like to feel happy.
So, what’s with this happiness thing anyway? Happiness, as you know, is big business. There are hundreds of thousands of “how-to be happy” books on the market, and the fact that people spend billions of dollars on happiness pills and therapy speaks volumes.
It turns out that happiness really does matter. Surprising as it may seem, the latest research indicates that there may be a correlation between happiness and stroke prevention. This is a rather interesting statistic and one well worth thinking about. Regardless, life is easier and more fun when you feel good about yourself.
Make up your mind to be happy. Treat yourself well. Take a few minutes before you get out of bed in the morning to think good thoughts, and then plan your day accordingly. This might be a good time to rethink meditation or a morning yoga routine. Practice smiling at yourself in the mirror and then smile when you sip your coffee, smile at the paperboy, smile at your next door neighbor, and then keep on smiling.
If you are still having more bad days than good days, you may need professional help. The good news is that society no longer views counseling, therapy sessions or support groups negatively; in fact the whole idea of “finding yourself” has become quite trendy.
Nip mild depression in the bud, before it becomes habitual and ruins your life. Let happiness be your new normal. Happiness matters.