As Generation Xers start to age and join the baby boomers, exercise becomes important to fight excess weight that builds around the belly and chest.
This excess weight can cause an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, some cancers and type 2 diabetes. Exercise is one way to lose weight and become healthier. Make sure to talk to your primary care doctor before starting any new exercise program.
Being obese or overweight significantly impacts one’s longevity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 24 million adults over the age of 65 are categorized as obese. CalOptima, the health insurance provider for thousands of adults and children throughout Orange County, recommends the following exercises to help get your body in shape and combat the loss of lean muscle as you get older:
- Cardio: Experts recommend a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise each day such as brisk walks, running, biking, swimming, or workout routines. Cardio exercise improves lung capacity and heart strength, which diminish with age. If you’re crunched for time and don’t have 30 minutes, do three or four 10-minute exercise sessions a week instead.
- Core exercises: Conditioning abdominal and lower-back muscles is critical to improving your posture and supporting your upper torso. Crunches (not sit-ups) are a common core-strength-building exercise. To do crunches, lie on the floor with your knees bent, and hands behind your head. Then contract your abdominal muscles, raising your chest a few inches off the ground.
Planks are another good core exercise. It strengthens your arms, legs, hips, core, back and butt. Lie on your stomach, and then lift your body with your weight resting on your forearms and toes. Like performing a pushup, keep your back straight and your butt down. Breathe normally and contract your stomach muscles. Hold this position for a 20-second count, relax, and then repeat three to six times. Over time, build up your endurance to hold the position for one-to-two minutes.
- Strength or resistance training: As you get older, you lose muscle mass and gain more fat which can lead to diabetes. To help regulate glucose metabolism, strength training at least twice a week for 30 to 45 minutes is essential. Also, increased muscle mass helps increase your metabolism and improve your body's ability to burn calories. Common strength training exercises include pushups, bicep curls, tricep extensions and modified squats and lunges that activate many muscles at once.
To avoid overuse and injuries, give yourself 24 to 48 hours in between strength training to ensure your muscles are properly rested.
As you get older, supporting your back and the rest of your body is critical. But be aware of your limits and don’t push them too hard. Always warm up before you begin exercising to make sure your body is ready. Remember that pain is an early warning sign to ease off what you’re doing.