Daily Activities for Aging Gracefully…and Fitfully!

By Colin Davis, BSc., CSEP-CPT

Our daily habits determine our long-term health; which is why it is so important to improve our consciousness of these habits. This concept is especially relevant in dealing with our fitness.

As a result of aging, our maximal aerobic capacity declines i.e. less energy during movement/sports, as does our muscular performance i.e. less strength/endurance during activities; not to mention aging causes increased fat mass and decrease muscle mass. All of this resulting in the sensation of ‘feeling old’! The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends accumulating at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week i.e. brisk walk, bike ride, swimming etc. For strength and endurance ACSM recommends training each of the six major muscle groups (legs, abdominals, back, chest, shoulders and arms) twice a week at a moderate intensity. A combination of eight to ten exercises should be performed with one to three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions. Furthermore, to improve flexibility, ACSM recommends stretching each major muscle group at least twice per week, holding for 10 to 30 seconds to the point of tension but not pain. Finally, some form of balance training should be done to prevent falls and further injuries.

All of this is fine and well if you have access to a gym and have allotted time to do it, however for many this may not be easily achieved. What can we do on a daily basis to fulfill the ACSM’s requirements without going to the gym or eating up too much time in our busy lives? Here is a list of some great ways to integrate activity into your life through a few modifications of our daily routine…

Cardiovascular

  • Walk to the grocery, mailbox, neighbor’s house, kid’s school etc. Walk whenever/wherever you can!
  • Take the stairs whenever possible to do so – no more elevators or escalators!
  • If the distance is slightly too long to walk then bike whenever/wherever possible.
  • When walking try to lengthen your stride and quicken your pace to keep challenging yourself
  • Get an activity monitoring bracelet to give you feedback on your steps, energy expenditure and accountability with others

Strength/Endurance

  • Squat to lift items off the floor throughout the day – no more stooping/bending over, use those legs!
  • Practice bracing/stiffening core muscles throughout day on regular daily activities i.e. opening fridge door etc. as a reminder. Try and expand this to most activities involving exertion and even further expand to non-exertion activities i.e. standing in line etc. until it becomes involuntary
  • When getting off sofa, chairs, benches etc. avoid using railings i.e. straighten back, tense core, and squat off your seat
  • On stairs try to use every other step if able or avoid using handrails…or both!
  • Volunteer yourself on manual tasks with friends/associates
  • Carry your own groceries out if possible

Flexibility/Balance

  • Practice integrating stretching of tighter muscles during/after everyday activities i.e. stretch hamstrings after walking, stretch hips after sitting, stretch forearms after typing etc.
  • Stand on one leg while doing everyday tasks i.e. brushing teeth, doing laundry, standing in line etc.
  • Integrate stretching and balance wherever possible!

Contact a certified fitness professional for more great ideas and tips on safely integrating activity into your daily routine. Good luck and keep moving!

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