Four Tips to Help Us Stay Active As We Get Older

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Walking is a good exercise to maintain fitness as we age.
Walking is a good exercise to maintain fitness as we age. (Airman 1st Class Gabrielle Spradling/U.S. Air Force photo)

"I am a 61-year-old retired officer and used to be in good shape, but after a desk job for the past several years, well, you can imagine the rest. Do you have any weight loss or fitness advice for someone like me?"

Thanks for your career of service, sir. I have some advice to help you get rolling again in a safe way that is not too aggressive, yet will be effective for your goals.

As we age, we still need to stay active, especially functional movements that are required in everyday life: Sitting, standing, walking, picking up something and carrying it, etc. This requires practicing movements, flexibility/balance training and some form of cardiovascular training.

Here is what I recommend for folks, as well as myself, as we age:

1. Less impact: Decrease running and add more biking, swimming, elliptical gliders, rowing, etc., for cardio to burn fat and calories and keep your heart and lungs functioning at optimal levels. For many who ran hard in their younger years and gained several pounds along the way, the knees are screaming at you now.

A common phrase I use for immediate benefits is: "Just add water." Drink more than you do now (at least the minimum recommended amount of 80-100 ounces a day) and get physical in the water and try swimming, water aerobics and even aqua jogging.

2. Mix calisthenics and stretching-based exercises with dumbbell exercises for muscle tone and flexibility: If you never have taken a yoga course, give a beginners class a try. I thought I was flexible until I took a yoga course. These exercises assist with overall well-being as well as balance, muscle tone and flexibility.

3. Smarter eating: Eat foods that contain less fat, sugar and are not high in cholesterol.  

4. Balance: Practice standing on one leg to work the balance muscles of the lower leg and work up to performing some regular dumbbell exercises while standing on one leg, too.

I have a ton of information to help you in the articles at Military.com.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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