Fitness generally means in good physical condition. It is associated with all round health and wellness.
Decades of evidence
Thousands of scientific studies over decades tell us that people who are more fit experience less cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and other serious chronic conditions that are also linked to falls.
Lest you jump to the conclusion that the train has left the station without you, please know that evidence shows that changing health status from unfit to fit can reverse existing conditions! You can have more endurance, stronger bones and muscles, better balance. If you do fall, improved fitness can mean fewer serious injuries.
To examine fitness, we look at four lifesavers:
- Endurance/aerobic exercise
- Muscle strengthening
- Balance and flexibility
- Move More
Where to begin
If you do not already have routines for maintaining fitness, you might ask, “Where is it best to begin?” I suggest you start reducing your falls risks where you have greatest need. If you have no urgent need, start where you are most interested or most likely to enjoy the activity.
- Do you need to get moving, reduce sedentariness? Go to Move More to find support for doing this in fun ways.
- You might start a new fitness routine with aerobic exercise. Do you have/can you get a walking buddy? Go to Aerobic Activities to begin this lifesaving activity.
- Or, maybe you think that strength building is an immediate need. You are having trouble every day getting up from a chair, getting in and out of the car. Lower body strength needs help. Or, you have upper body weakness that makes it hard to do everyday activities such as reaching for clothes in the closet, or dishes from the shelf. Go to Muscle Strengthening to develop a plan of action.
- For many older adults, balance issues become apparent after a stumble, and hopefully before a fall. Go to Balance and Flexibility to develop an exercise routine designed for this purpose.
It is amazing how resilient our bodies can be. We can begin a fitness routine one day and turn around a few weeks later and see significant change. The little bits of activity that you do each day, whatever plan you choose, will add up to make you healthier.
It is nearly impossible to begin with all four fitness areas at once. The reason is not about physical limitations. It is mental. Keeping a focus on one or two areas is demanding. Instead, plan to add a bit more every week or every month, slowly.
When you begin with one lifesaver, let’s say improving balance, you have made a dramatic change from the day before. Compare yourself today to yourself yesterday if you want. Feel the progress! But do not compare yourself today with some hypothetical person who has had twenty years of high fitness. Why feel bad? It serves only to discourage and sabotage your progress.
As you begin any risk reduction, any lifestyle change, you are doing a very good thing. It is not easy, but you are doing it! Congratulate yourself!