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May 30, 2006 > With Age Can Come Wisdom about Health and Fitness

With Age Can Come Wisdom about Health and Fitness

It is never too late to start eating right and exercising for good health. No matter what age you are or what kind of physical shape you are in, there is a health and fitness program that can benefit your body and give you strength, endurance and energy for day-to-day life.

Wednesday, May 31 is National Senior Health and Fitness Day. Whether you are a lifelong devotee of a fitness program or you’ve never exercised regularly, the goal of this annual event is to encourage older Americans to be healthy and fit. The theme for 2006 is "Fitness -- A Lifetime of Benefits."

"You have to keep active to stay healthy," says Dee Dee Borza, R.N., Non-invasive Cardiology Manager at Washington Hospital.

There are some basic components of good fitness no mater what age you are. A fit person can gain cardio-respiratory endurance through aerobic exercise to help the heart, lungs and blood vessels carry oxygen to cells and the muscles. Muscular fitness leads to overall body strength and endurance. And flexibility enables full range of free and comfortable movement throughout the joints. Older adults who exercise regularly may find they also gain a better sense of balance, have improved agility and reduced discomfort from arthritic joints or back problems.

Before beginning any fitness program, you need to first consult your physician to assess your overall health and to help pick a program that is right for you. Borza says that, generally, walking is a good way to start moving although "there are all different kinds of modalities" if walking is not easy for you.

"There’s even chair aerobics," Borza points out.

When beginning a new exercise program, it is important to watch your body for signs of over-exertion. With any new program, you should start slowly and work your way up to longer or harder workouts. If you are exercising appropriately, you should be able to breathe comfortably and feel comfortable while performing the exercise. Shortness of breath, a racing heart rate, or undue fatigue are indicators that you should slow down.

The benefits of exercise are both physical and psychological. You look and feel better when you are fit. Borza says that often group exercise programs are beneficial because they motivate a person to get involved with exercise and then stick to a program. Senior Centers in Fremont and Newark have group fitness opportunities for older adults. With a physician’s referral, adults can also participate in Washington Hospital’s Ladies Choice program and the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program.

"In a group program, there’s group support," Borza says. "People bond together and have a reason to get up and exercise."

Regular exercise goes hand-in-hand with nutritious eating for a complete fit and healthy lifestyle. At Washington Hospital, Borza says they emphasize making healthy choices including five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, cutting down on fat and putting more fiber into your diet. Borza cites that with the increase in Type 2 diabetes in older Americans, a diet with controlled glucose intake is also important. A physician can refer you to a dietitian at Washington Hospital or help you get individual counseling focused on your personal dietary needs.

For guidelines on healthy eating, go to the Web site for the new food pyramid,

The Ladies Choice program at Washington Hospital meets Tuesdays and Thursdays with one-hour sessions running between 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. It is open to healthy women of all ages who want help implementing an individual exercise plan or to enhance a weight loss program.

The Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Washington Hospital meets on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for individuals with heart problems or risk factors for heart disease. There are seven, one-hour classes that meet throughout the day starting at 8:00 a.m., with the last class starting at 5:15 p.m. You must have a physician referral to attend and your health insurance coverage will be checked before you begin the program.

For information on either of these Washington Hospital programs, call (510) 494-7022.

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