Can you believe summer’s over? It certainly doesn’t feel like it to me, and I guess, technically, it’s not. But, when the kids go back to school, you know it’s just around the corner.
The start of a new school year always means getting back into a routine with a more structured schedule than the lazy days of summer. I know you’re probably thinking that you don’t have to worry about that anymore. Your kids are grown, you’re retired, and now you’re on a permanent “summer break.” Not so fast! I’m now enrolling you in our Boomers Back to School class, and class in now in session.
If you’ve gotten a little off track with your health and wellness goals this summer, we’ve got you covered. We’re going to talk about 6 key actions you can take to get back on track. Each week we’ll look at one action in detail and set specific goals, and, yes, you’ll even have some homework. The 6 key actions are:
- Get 30 – 60 minutes of aerobic exercise at least 5 days per week.
- Perform strength-training exercises 2 – 3 days per week.
- Eat a healthy breakfast every day.
- Drink 6 -8 glasses of water each day.
- Eat 3 cups of veggies each day.
- Eat 2 fruits each day.
This list might look overwhelming, but don’t worry. We’re going to break it down. This week we’re just focusing on action #1:
Get 30 – 60 minutes of aerobic exercise at least 5 days per week.
Aerobic Exercise 101
Aerobic exercises are activities – walking, jogging, biking, swimming, raking, sweeping, dancing, playing tennis, chair aerobics – that increase your heart rate and breathing for an extended period of time. They will make it easier for you to walk farther, faster, or even uphill. They also should make everyday activities like gardening, shopping, and playing with your grandkids easier.
How Much, How Often
Our goal is to get 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise at least 5 days per week; although, everyday is best. If you haven’t been active for a long time, it’s important to work your way up to 30 minutes over time. It can take weeks or months to build up to a continuous 30 minutes of moderate-intensity endurance activity, and that’s okay. Start with 10 minutes of activity. Research shows that doing 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, 3 times a day, is an effective way to improve your cardiovascular system. Doing less than 10 minutes at a time, however, won’t give you the desired heart and lung benefits.
Remember, that these are goals, not rules. You may be able to do more and you may be able to do less.
Counting Your Steps
Step counters can help you track your aerobic activity, set goals, and measure progress. Most inactive people get fewer that 5,000 steps a day, and some very inactive people get only 2,000 steps a day.
You have lots of options when it comes to step counters these days. You can get fancy, sophisticated watches or wristbands or basic, much cheaper, pedometers. Fitbits are very popular right now, and they track your steps and heart rate, calorie intake, and more. They are very sophisticated devices. If you’re looking for a cheaper, less complicated alternative, a basic pedometer will also work. Check out this website for a list of the best fitness trackers on the market: http://www.wareable.com/fitness-trackers/the-best-fitness-tracker
Once you determine which device is best for you, wear it for a few days to see how you’re doing.
Fewer than 5,000 steps a day: Gradually try to add 3,000 to 4,000 more steps a day.
About 8,000 steps a day: You’re probably meeting the recommended activity target.
10,000 or more steps a day: You can be confident that you’re getting an adequate amount of aerobic activity.
10,000 steps a day comfortably: Try for 15,000 steps a day, which would put you in the high-activity group.
Intensity – Pay attention and listen to your body. Aerobic activities should not make you breath so hard that you can’t talk, and they should not make you feel dizzy, give you chest pain or pressure, or give you a feeling of heartburn. A good rule of thumb is:
“If you can’t talk while you’re exercising, it’s too difficult. If you can sing a song, it’s too easy!”
Warm up and Cool down – Do a little light activity, like walking, before and after your aerobic activities to effectively warm up and cool down.
Hydrate – As you get older, you might not feel thirsty even when your body needs fluids. Be sure to drink liquids when doing any activity that makes you sweat. By the time you notice you are thirsty, you probably are already low on fluid.
Note: If your doctor has told you to limit your fluids, be sure to check before increasing the amount of fluid you drink while exercising. For example, if you have congestive heart failure or kidney disease, you may need to limit fluids.
Heat – Older adults can be affected by heat and cold more than others. This is extremely important right now when a large part of the country has been experiencing record-breaking heat waves. In extreme cases, too much heat can cause heat stroke, so please be careful. If the heat and humidity both you right now, try taking your activities indoor:
If you have stairs at home, go up and down a few times in a row.
Walk at the mall.
Go for a swim at your local fitness or recreation center.
Whatever activity you choose, stay safe! To prevent injuries, remember the following tips:
- Wear a helmet when riding a bike
- When walking, watch out for low-hanging branches and uneven sidewalks.
- Walk during the day or in well-lit areas at night, and be aware of your surroundings.
- Always carry your cell phone in case of emergency.
- Wear the proper shoes.
Some people are afraid to exercise after a heart attack, but regular physical activity can help reduce your chances of having another heart attack. If you’ve had a heart attack, talk with your doctor to be sure that you’re following a safe, effective physical activity program.
Now that you know a little bit more about aerobic exercise, you have a homework assignment to complete for next week. Take a blank calendar for the month of August. Any calendar will work, or you can print one here:
In the upper right hand corner, write 150. That is our goal for this week…to get 150 minutes of aerobic activity. Don’t let that number frighten you. When you break it down, it’s 30 minutes on 5 days out of the week. Remember, you can break that 30 minutes into 10 minute increments if you need to.
For each day, I want you to draw a line down the center of the box. On the left-hand side, write the activity you completed. On the right side, write the total minutes. At the end of the week, total up your minutes and see where you are. If you’re under the 150 mark, keep working hard to reach that goal over the next few weeks. If you’re already over 150, bump your next week’s goal to 250 minutes.
Please keep me posted with your progress. I’d love to hear how you’re doing!
Stay happy, healthy, and N motion, AND REMEMBER…age is just a number!