Senior Beat

‘Use it before you lose it’: Start moving to get healthy

By Carol Higgins Taylor

Special to The Weekly

I heard something the other day that does not bode well for me. Apparently, sitting is the new smoking. My mantra has always been, why stand when you can sit, why walk when you can ride. According to, well everyone, I may have a rude awakening in store.

Numerous reports claim that sitting for long periods of time is closely related to a variety of menacing health conditions, such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Gracious!

If you are like me and find yourself sitting for long spells (as an example, I have been seated at my desk going on four and a half hours now) then I think we both need to make changes. And being seniors probably only exacerbates the problem.

There is more to it than a short jaunt around the house. Evidently, participating in activities that you enjoy may maintain your overall well-being. Think about it, there isn’t much that’s more fun than sitting around with good friends and laughing so hard you cry. Oops. There it is again. Sitting around. Seems like old thinking dies hard.

But, if you think about the old adage, use it or lose it, these research findings shouldn’t be surprising. Fortunately, there is help available. Visit www.go4life.nia.nih.gov for some excellent advice.

There are four types of exercise: endurance, strength, balance and flexibility. Each one is important in its own right, but doing them all brings added benefits. This really means that taking a daily walk is good, but adding the other components is great. Some of the exercises do double duty, for example strength training can also build endurance. Let’s look at the four types.

— Endurance. This is classified as an aerobic activity, sometimes called cardio, that increases your breathing and heart rate. This can include brisk walking or jogging, and strenuous yard work. Swimming, biking and dancing will count too, as long as you huff and puff a little.

— Strength. As the name indicates, strength training, also called resistance training, makes you stronger. I read about an elderly man years ago that started lifting weights. In just three weeks of training, he was able to give up his walker. Along with weight training, you can use resistance bands and your own body as leverage. Ask your doctor for some simple exercises or visit a reputable gym.

— Balance. Given the prevalence of senior falls, this is a critical one to improve. Exercises include standing on one foot, increasing your time each day (hang onto something if you are at all unsteady) and Tai Chi, which is available at Eastern Area Agency on Aging’s annex location.

— And finally, flexibility. These exercises stretch your muscles and help you get, or stay, limber. Yoga is a great exercise for flexibility and is also offered at Eastern Area Agency on Aging.

A word of caution, though, before you gear-up and head out. Talk to your doctor first and discuss the best exercises for your particular body and condition.

The good news is that all of these exercises can be done while seated. (Not the point, I know, but I thought it was important to mention. Again, old habits and all that.)

An improved well-being is not all about the physical. Hobbies, socializing, and engaging in fun activities may actually reduce the risk for developing some health problems, including dementia. Research or not, it’s just common sense. If you are doing activities that make you happier and healthier, you have a better chance of actually achieving happiness and good health.

Visit www.go4life.nia.nih.gov/4-types- exercise and www.www.nia.nih.gov/health/exercise-physical- activity for really useful information.

Note: An eagle-eyed reader emailed me to ask about the income guidelines for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, the 30-pound box of free food each month, that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. Seems I neglected to mention that the income guideline amount was monthly. So sorry for that. Again, guidelines are $1,307 for one or $1,760 for a couple.

Carol Higgins Taylor is an advocate for seniors and owns Bryant Street Public Relations in

Bangor. Email her at seniorbeat@gmail.com.

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