Bone up on fitness

Group of adults working out

A few weeks ago, I was rapidly walking through my living room to grab something off an end table. I was too busy concentrating on whatever it was I was reaching for and not paying attention to what was on the floor. Before I knew it, I had tripped over the cord of a lamp on another end table, and I tumbled onto the living room floor.

Luckily, the floor is carpeted, and I didn’t hit my head on the back of the sofa or on the nearby end table. But the right side of my body did hit the floor pretty hard, and my right arm and leg felt it and showed it with nasty bruises.

I’ve had my share of bumps and bruises over the years while hiking, riding my bike as a kid, and doing assorted other activities. I even tumbled over a boulder near a trailhead a couple of years ago when I was more interested in looking at the scenery than I was watching for obstacles.

I haven’t always been as careful as I should but I’ve managed to be lucky enough to avoid really serious injury. I don’t want that luck to run out.

According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC),  hospitals in 2010 reported admissions for 258,000 hip fractures among those aged 65 and older. Most of those fractures (95 percent) were caused by falling, often sideways onto a hip. I’m still in my early 50s but I’m not getting any younger. And that spill on my living room floor? Yep, it was sideways.

I must admit that fall was a wake-up call. I recognize I need to be a lot more cautious about my surroundings and do all I can to avoid tripping or slipping on something in my path. I also need to get moving again, doing activities that will help keep my bones strong.

January Windell is a senior manager for Banner Health’s ECHO (Employees Choosing Healthy Options) program. She has worked with many women over age 50 who want to improve their overall fitness for a number of reasons. As an experienced certified personal trainer who was also an exercise physiologist for a physical therapist, she understands the importance of physical activity to keep those of us a certain age healthy and agile.

“As we age, our bones naturally become less dense, but there are steps we can take to avoid osteoporosis,”  she explains. “Weight-bearing exercises have so many benefits for women over 50. They help relieve the pain of arthritis, help build lean muscle mass to make us more efficient at burning calories, and they are effective in preventing and treating osteoporosis.”

So what are some examples of weight-bearing exercises women 50+ can do? We’re not talking boot camp here. There are plenty of exercises that any woman can do without fear of overdoing and burning out.

Walking

Good old-fashioned walking is a great weight-bearing activity, January says, adding that it’s important to make sure you walk with shoes that provide plenty of support and that you wear clothes that are comfortable and flexible. If you haven’t been active, start slowly and work to where you can eventually walk briskly on a regular basis.

Other ideas:

  • Tai Chi – Suitable for all levels of fitness and ability. Uses slow movement and controlled breathing. Can help coordination, balance and build strong bones.
  • Yoga – Variety of yoga practices for all levels help build strength, coordination and balance.
  • Dancing – If you like to cut a rug, this is a perfect activity at home or out on the town.
  • Hiking – Be sure to wear supportive footwear, comfortable clothing for all types of weather conditions, and take along plenty of water.
  • Pilates – Strength and stretching exercises that build the core, increase flexibility and coordination.
  • Strength Training – There are a number of choices here, January explains. You can use free weights, machines, bands and tubing. If you prefer to work out at home and don’t have fitness equipment, you can lift soup cans you’ve taken from the pantry and do step-ups from the bottom step of a staircase.

Just remember, if you’ve never been particularly active or you’re like me and have not been as committed to regular fitness of late, start slowly to avoid injury or burnout. If you haven’t exercised or if you have particular health issues, be sure to talk with your healthcare provider about what types of activities are best for you.

“Be aware of how your body reacts to these new activities,” January says. “Don’t get intimidated, as there is no such thing as a quick fix. Set realistic goals and stick with them. Schedule a time to exercise regularly, so you create a habit that will become difficult to break.”

Me? I’ve got work to do. After my recent fall, my husband and I got a protective cover strip for the lamp cord to keep it safely secured to the floor. Now I need to pay more attention to my surroundings at all times and start a regular fitness routine once again. I’ll keep you posted.

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