Developing an exercise routine improves health and outlook

Most everyone seems to be more health conscious today. People are taking a closer look at the foods they're eating and the activities in which they are participating for a healthier lifestyle.

One of the most important aspects of health is keeping the body in good shape with exercise.

"People need to stop eating so much and start moving," said Lynn Fischer, an author and nutrition expert. It doesn't matter how old you are; you should get some form of exercise. Just get up and do something."

Seniors often use the excuse that they're "too old" to exercise.

"I'm vitally interested in seniors because I am one," said Fischer, who does not reveal her age. "So many people are prejudiced against seniors. People automatically think that you can't do something because you're too old."

Exercise can help alleviate many health problems. It helps to lower blood pressure, builds bones and lowers cholesterol.

"It also helps with depression," Fischer said. "When a person doesn't move around much they'll feel sluggish and when they feel sluggish they don't feel good and it just keeps building until they're depressed.

Seniors can do almost any exercise they want, according to Fischer.

"People can even sit and exercise," she said. "Just doing arm movements and leg movements in a chair helps. The important thing to remember is not to do it if it hurts too much. All exercise will hurt a little when you first start. What you don't want is severe pain. If you don't feel like exercising at first, it will be easier the second time."

Exercises that are good for seniors to try are lifting weights, stretching and walking. Weights do not have to be heavy to be beneficial.

"The important thing is [that seniors should be] moving and any movement is better than sitting in a chair all the time," Fischer said. "Every time a senior gets up and does something, they should give themselves a hug for doing an activity rather than sitting."

Simple stretches are helpful. Stretching will keep muscles limber and if this form of exercise is handled easily, a yoga class is good for gaining more flexibility and freedom of movement.

Stretching by nature is relaxing. By easing into it, there is no real pain.

Tony Berryman, a registered massage therapist in Vancouver, B.C., suggests minimizing distractions and concentrating on what you are doing and what your body feels. This will make the stretch session turn into an exploration instead of a dreaded chore.

Walking is another good form of exercise for people of all ages. As with any exercise, start slowly and increase the amount of walking as you get used to it.

"I walk five miles every Saturday morning," Fischer said. "Walking can be a lot of fun. Get a friend to walk with. Chatting helps pass the time and it's a good way to stay in touch with friends."

Walking doesn't even have to be a planned outing. There are plenty of ways of getting walking exercise without setting aside a certain time slot for it.

"I purposely have a house with stairs," said Fischer. "I have to go up and down several times a day and it makes me feel good knowing I'm getting exercise in just my everyday routine. When I go to the store, I purposely park far away. So many people drive around looking for the closest parking place and if they'd only realize how much good it can do for them by parking farther out, they'd be a lot better off."

People who walk regularly have a lower incidence of heart disease, stroke, cancer and other diseases, enabling them to live longer.

"All it takes is just a little motivation," Fischer said. "People always feel they need to start out big and that's not true. There are thousands of things for seniors to do and I guarantee they'll be much happier."