A doctor’s advice for outdoor exercise

For those contemplating a skimpy bikini this summer, there are plenty of body sculpting resources in the magazines at the grocery store check-out line.
But today I’m addressing a demographic that has likely hung up the Speedo for good: the over-65 crowd.
Sweating away in the gym is fine, but there are definitely benefits to exercising outside. So for those who are a little older, slower and less likely to hit the gym, here’s my advice for exercising in the beautiful weather.
  1. Start slowly. It’s not just your heart and lungs that are over the hill—your joints probably passed their prime years ago. Whatever you think you’re capable of doing, cut your plans in half and start there. Your knees will thank you.
  2. Set modest goals. Start by walking to the mailbox and back every day, and within a month, tackle the whole block. For many older people, a trip to the end of the road and back is plenty of activity to keep the heart healthy.
  3. Try run-walking. Running, even slowly, is a relatively big step up from walking in terms of aerobic intensity and joint stress. Start by incorporating short segments of slow jogging into your walks and increase the frequency as the months go by. Before you know it you’ll be signing up for races, consuming energy bars, and discussing the merits of Asics versus New Balance.
  4. Avoid headphones. If your outdoor walk takes you out on a road or path frequented by cyclists, leave the iPod home. Paying attention to your surroundings will keep you from stepping in front of a car or getting run over by a frantically yelling cyclist.
  5. Get a medical bracelet. The last thing you want is to collapse while you’re out for your daily constitutional. But if that happens you’ll want to have identification. Carry a cell phone, too.
  6. Push yourself a little.  If your health is relatively good, challenge your body every now and again.  Walk a little faster up that next hill to improve your anaerobic capacity 
  7. Exercise with a friend. This makes exercise more interesting, and your friend’s influence will help drag you out of bed when you don’t feel up to walking.
  8. Try biking. This is great exercise that doesn’t tax the knees as much as some other workouts. The problem with biking is the whole falling over thing. Even with a helmet an 80-year-old that drops off his Schwinn runs the risk of a hip fracture. Try a 3-wheeled bike.
  9. Ignore the weather. Don’t shy away from the cold or rain — just bundle up.  It’s easy to convince yourself it’s too hot or too cold. Eventually you won’t venture outside unless the weather is picture perfect.
  10. Check with your doctor if you’ve haven’t exercised much. You can do a trial run on one of our treadmills.

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