Senior Fitness: It’s Never Too Late

senior couple riding a bike( — People of every age can benefit from exercise. Unfortunately, many seniors feel discouraged by fitness obstacles, such as health problems, bone and joint issues, or lack of current physical knowledge – there’s no doubt that fitness programs aren’t what they used to be 40, or even 20, years ago.

That said, no one can afford to not be physically active. Exercise can help you manage illness, stay strong and energetic, and even help reverse some of the symptoms of aging.

Seniors might have a hard time starting and getting used to a program that includes cardio, strength training and balance, but whether you are generally healthy, or are managing an illness – even if you’re housebound – there are many easy ways to get your body moving, and improve your overall health.

Here are some safe fitness tips for seniors:

Take The Stairs. Giving up the elevator or escalator for the stairs is a great way to help burn calories, build strength and endurance, and gain balance. If you have a problem knee, lead with your good side going up, and lead with your not-so-good side going down.

Monitor Your Steps. Go shopping for a simple, easy-to-use pedometer. Many pedometers cost five to ten dollars, and many more are given away for free. Use the pedometer to track your daily regular  steps. You want to get at least 10,000 steps in daily, but you don’t want to increase your daily steps too quickly. Keep a log of the number of steps you take, and gradually incorporate more steps into your day until you reach your goal.

Take A Seat. Use TV time of computer time to incorporate some strength training. You can build your core by doing a simple exercise while sitting in your favorite chair. Scoot forward in your chair until you’re sitting on the edge. Sit with good posture – chest up and shoulders back. Lean back, bending at the hips, until you shoulderss touch the back of the chair. Come up and repeat. You should feel your abdominal muscles doing all the work. This exercise is a safe way to strengthen your core without putting too much impact on the spine.

Squat Safely. Performing regular squats can strengthen your leg muscles and help you avoid the need for a cane or a walker. To perform squats safely, stand tall and upright with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointing forward. Next, drop your hips back and stick your bottom out. Then, gently bend your knees as though you’re trying to sit down in a chair. If you can’t go down very far, don’t worry. Just don’t give up and always take your time.

Join A Class. Talk to your doctor about your desire to join group fitness class. Your doctor might recommend a certain activity based on your fitness status and ability. Find out about classes at your local YMCA, hospitals, health clubs, fitness centers and city recreation programs. Yoga, Tai Chi, water sports and group walking classes are excellent low impact group workout examples for seniors.

Get A Buddy. Whether it’s your spouse, personal trainer or a friend, a workout buddy can help keep you motivated. And setting up workout dates or appointments with them can give you a sense of structure – which makes you less likely to skip out on your workout!

Wear The Right Shoes. Comfortable shoes that provide support are essential for all impact physical activities. If you have orthopedic problems, arthritis or diabetes, it is especially important to wear the appropriate shoes to work out in.

The Building Blocks Of A Better Salad

( – If you think that heading to the salad bar is a healthier choice, then you better think again, because when it comes to watching your waistline, all salads are not created equal. Low in calories but loaded with fiber and vitamins, salads are one of the healthiest meals you can have — that is if you make the right choices. Adding too many high-calorie toppings can actually cause you to gain weight.

Here are a few guidelines to help you keep your salad healthy and free of unwanted calories.

1. Start with a strong base. If you haven’t already, ditch that anemic-looking iceberg lettuce. Instead, try the fabulous (and far more nutritious) greens available at local farmers’ markets, produce stands and many supermarkets – a great choice is a spring mix, which includes frisée, oakleaf, red chard and radicchio. Even romaine lettuce is far more tasty and nutrient-rich than iceberg.

2. Load on the veggies. As with greens, the sky’s the limit. Choose a variety of colors and keep them raw or lightly steamed (overcooked vegetables taste bland in salads). Brightly colored veggies also have major health benefits: The rich red in bell peppers, bright orange in carrots and deep green in broccoli are courtesy of phytochemicals, natural plant chemicals that have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and macular degeneration, among many other conditions. The best-known phytochemical is beta-carotene, which is found in orange, yellow, red and even some green vegetables. Others include flavonoids (broccoli, onions, celery) and chlorophyll (green beans and sugar snap peas).

3. Don’t forget the protein. This is what makes your salad a meal. Choose lean sources of animal protein, such as skinless chicken or turkey, canned or fresh salmon, chunk light tuna (it has less mercury than white albacore), hard-boiled eggs or egg whites, and sirloin steak or other lean meat. Vegetarian options include tofu, chickpeas, kidney beans, pinto beans and other legumes (canned is fine; just rinse and drain). Choose one (or two if you’re extra-hungry) of the following:

• Chicken breast, skinless, 3 oz: 20 g protein, 100 cal
• Turkey breast, skinless, 3 oz: 26 g protein, 115 cal
• Salmon, grilled, 3 oz: 19 g protein, 175 cal
• Whole egg, 2: 13 g protein, 160 cal (have no more than six egg yolks per week)
• Egg whites, 4: 14 g protein, 65 cal
• Chunk light tuna, water-packed, 3 oz: 22 g protein, 100 cal
• Sirloin steak, broiled, lean only, 3 oz: 26 g protein, 160 cal
• Tofu, ½ cup cubes: 20 g protein, 180 cal
• Chickpeas, ¾ cup: 11 g protein, 200 cal (and 9 g fiber)

4. Add tasty extras. Extras are more caloric than greens, veggies or protein, so use them sparingly. That shouldn’t be an issue, though, because a little goes a long way. Choose one, or smaller portions of two, of the following:

• Cheddar, shredded, 2 Tbsp: 55 cal
• Parmesan, grated, 2 Tbsp: 45 cal
• Feta, crumbled, 2 Tbsp: 50 cal nuts
• Walnuts, chopped, 1 Tbsp: 50 cal
• Almonds, sliced, 2 Tbsp: 65 cal seeds (kernels only)
• Sunflower, 1 Tbsp: 45 cal
• Pumpkin, 1 Tbsp: 45 cal other add-ins
• Avocado, 1 oz: 45 cal
• Croutons, ¼ cup: 45 cal
• Olives, canned in water, 10 small: 40 cal
• Raisins or dried cranberries, 2 Tbsp: 55 cal

5. Dress it up. This is where an otherwise healthy salad can go all wrong. Many restaurants will top salads with 3 to 6 Tbsp worth, which can add up to 500 calories! Order dressing on the side and limit it to about 1½ Tbsp for an entrée salad and 1 Tbsp for a side salad.

If you buy bottled dressings, look for low fat rather than fat-free ones. A little fat is good, because it helps your body absorb the beta-carotene, vitamin E and other fat-soluble nutrients from the veggies. Or make your own light vinaigrette with 1 part oil and 3 parts vinegar, then flavor with mustard, pressed garlic and spices.

By Felicia Vance, BDO Staff Writer