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Exercising With Varied Health Challenges

You've always known regular exercise enhances your quality of life. Your love of the outdoors may have led you to hiking or mountain biking; or maybe you enjoyed the camaraderie of team sports such as softball or bowling. Maybe you've gotten great satisfaction from planting and maintaining your flower or vegetable garden. You'd like to remain active during your retirement years, continuing your favorite activities and maybe adding some new ones. However, you're facing some health challenges that may impact your physical capabilities. Perhaps creating new, achievable forms of exercise will encourage you to move forward with confidence.
First, enlist your doctor as a partner in your exercise adventure. Emphasize your desire to improve your overall health through an appropriate exercise program. Ask her to objectively evaluate your physical condition and list any appropriate exercise restrictions and recommendations. Now you're ready to choose some activities that appeal to you.
Before you explore brand-new exercise options, ask how you can modify activities you already enjoy. For example, perhaps you love the peace and solitude you receive from your daily jog through the neighborhood. However, your physician has given the thumbs-down on your daily runs, citing the pavement's jarring effects on your knees and joints. Perhaps you can switch to deep-water running in your community pool. You might find you also enjoy water aerobics or water Pilates classes.
Next, ask about new activities that match your physical abilities. Many older exercisers find they can tailor walking, tai chi, or balance routines to their body's needs. Consider resistance training using hand weights, weight machines, or flexible resistance bands (with proper supervision, of course). If you've always loved the water, consider the Arthritis Foundation's aquatics classes. These warm-water pool sessions encourage participants' strength and flexibility with minimal muscle and joint impacts.
Most importantly, decide if you can see yourself engaging in (and enjoying) each proposed exercise. For example, your doctor may have suggested golf as a regular weight-bearing activity. However, your sun sensitivity may restrict or even prohibit your participation. Perhaps your physician has suggested you create a year-round flower garden, which would facilitate stretching and flexibility workouts. However, you're not sure you have the discipline to regularly tend the garden. You'd also rather not deal with the insects and other garden pests you'd encounter.
Let's assume you've settled on some intriguing exercise options. Demonstrate your commitment to fitness by recruiting a friend to exercise with you. You'll keep yourself accountable to an exercise partner while you receive some valuable social support. If that's not an option, create a game that provides rewards for your exercise milestones. If you meet your weekly goal, for example, reward yourself with a new plant or enjoy lunch with a friend. Consider a shopping trip, spa visit, or other larger prize for meeting each monthly exercise goal.
What physical benefits can you hope to achieve from your exercise program? If you can handle regular moderate-intensity sessions, you'll likely see cardiovascular system improvements. You'll also reduce your fall risk through better balance. Exercising twice a week (or more) can also help you increase your flexibility and strength.
As you move forward with your brand-new exercise regimen, remember you and your physician have created the best program for your needs and capabilities. When you're tempted to compare yourself to others, realize that everyone faces individual challenges that may not be immediately visible. Perhaps you can share your fitness journey as your fellow exercisers embark on their own path to a healthier life.