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It's not too late to get in shape— really

Have you been contemplating making a few healthy lifestyle adjustments such as eating better, losing a few pounds and exercising more?

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Your conscience may be screaming yes, but your body could be saying, "I'm too fatigued to follow through — and why bother? It's probably too late to be making any changes.''

As for fatigue, there is nothing better to rejuvenate lost energy than initiating exercise movement; energy begets energy. And, it has been proven that midlife exercise can produce greater fitness in our later years, increasing the chances of living an independent lifestyle.

Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina reported in the American Journal of Medicine that subjects who made four significant lifestyle changes later in life lowered their risk of heart disease by 35 percent and their overall risk of premature death by 40 percent, in just four years. The four healthy changes were eating five or more fruits and vegetables daily, exercising at least 2 ½ hours per week, keeping their weight down and quitting smoking.

Because old habits are hard to break, making lifestyle changes is difficult. Here are a few research findings that could help provide the necessary motivation to initiate such changes:

• Researchers at the Aging Research Center of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden have found that exercising at least twice weekly in midlife reduces the risk of dementia by more than 50 percent and the risk of Alzheimer's disease by more than 80 percent.

• A new study from France tells us that people who begin exercising later in life can develop balance control almost equal to those who have been physically active in their youth. However, if you should cease exercising, your balance will be just as poor as people who never exercised.

• "Choosing the right foods can cut the risk of some forms of cancer by as much as half," says Paul La Chance, professor of food science at Rutgers University. "Diet is key to a healthy heart and a strong immune system. It's turning out to be the cornerstone of preventive medicine."

• Researchers from the Washington University of Medicine in St. Louis report that exercise, whether it is strength training, stretching or walking, can provide a much-needed emotional boost for frail elderly adults.

• A new Australian study has found exercises that keep the heart strong, such as aerobic exercise, may also strengthen the cartilage in the knees and protect older people from osteoarthritis. People who started to exercise early in life and those who began to exercise later in life were both found to have stronger knees.

Keeping motivated

Know why you want to make a change. "I always emphasize that unless goals tie into something deeper and more meaningful to you, they are just more things on your to-do list" says Kate Larsen of Eden Prairie, Minn., a fitness instructor and author of Progress Not Perfection: Your Journey Matters (Expert Publisher, 2007).

Set realistic goals. It's fine to have a long-range goal, but you also need to plan for smaller, short-term goals. If your goal is to lose weight, set a healthy goal of losing 1 to 2 pounds a week and do not check your weight daily on the scales — that can lead to frustration. Evaluate your progress at the end of each week.

• Journaling. Recording your specific goals will give you a focus, and keeping a daily record of your progress and your emotions help make your actions more accountable. According to William Gayton, Ph.D. and professor of psychology at the University of Southern Maine, "The motivating power of a goal, especially in the beginning, is the day-to-day, hour-to-hour, week-to-week feedback that you get about how well you're doing. You don't know how well you're doing unless the goal is specific and measurable."

If your goal is to eat healthier foods, create a food diary, perhaps beginning with recording your newly discovered fruit and veggies.

Make it fun. Reward yourself occasionally. When you hit that 4-pound loss, treat yourself to a movie you have been wanting to see. Gayton says, "We know the probability of a behavior occurring again is a function of whether there's a positive consequence following it. So if you want to maintain over a long period of time, clearly the behavior needs to be rewarded."

When the new lifestyle habit catches on, you will need less external motivation.

Plan ahead. Plan interesting ways to deal with your challenges, but do not try to make too many changes at one time. Your plan could include making one small change a week, such as substituting whole wheat or multigrain breads for white bread and pasta. With exercise, you might introduce a different type of exercise each month.

Find a cheerleader. Think of several people who could give you support and help keep you accountable as you are trying to make positive changes. Verbalizing your goals will help to reinforce your commitment.

Forgive yourself. If you find you have taken two steps forward but one step back, accept it as a normal part of progress and move forward.

If you are 50 or older and have not been exercising, check with your physician before beginning ANY exercise program. Sally Anderson, a trainer, is happy to hear from readers. Write her in care of LifeTimes, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.Picture 1. Squat, knee lifts and balance, with or without light weights: strengthens major muscles in both the upper and lower body.

Standing with feet about shoulder-width apart, bend knees into a squat position. As you return to a standing position, lift one knee and raise arms upward over shoulders.

Tips: Make sure buttocks go back as you squat; prevents knees from going beyond toes. When lifting your knee, keep knee to the front, ankle under knee. Hold onto a stable support, if needed.

Hammer curl on ball: works biceps (front of upper arms) and the body's core. Sit on a stability ball with back straight, feet shoulder-width apart and legs slightly bent. Place center of resistance tubing underneath feet, toes pointed upward. Hold end of tubing with palms facing inward. Contract abdominals and curl hands toward shoulders.

Tips: Elbows should be pressed against the waist to prevent upper arms from moving. Keep wrists in alignment with forearms so wrists and arms will move together.

Seated overhead extension: works the triceps (back of upper arms). Sitting on the ball, hold weight over head with both hands . Bending arms at the elbow, lower weight behind head. Return to original position and repeat .

Tips: Always keep elbows pointing forward, framing your face. Do not do this exercise if you have shoulder concerns.

Knee to shoulder rotation: works lower body, the core and upper body. In a squat position, reach to knee with a medicine ball or light weights . As you lift up, rotate hips and slowly follow through with a straight arm over opposite shoulder.

Tip: Do not lock knees or elbows.



Picture 1 Squat, knee lifts and balance, with or without light weights: strengthens major muscles in both the upper and lower body.

Standing with feet about shoulder-width apart, bend knees into a squat position. As you return to a standing position, lift one knee and raise arms upward over shoulders.

Tips: Make sure buttocks go back as you squat; prevents knees from going beyond toes. When lifting your knee, keep knee to the front, ankle under knee. Hold on to a stable support, if needed.

2 Hammer curl on ball: works biceps (front of upper arms) and the body's core.

Sit on a stability ball with back straight, feet shoulder-width apart and legs slightly bent. Place center of resistance tubing underneath feet, toes pointed upward. Hold end of tubing with palms facing inward. Contract abdominals and curl hands toward shoulders.

Tips: Elbows should be pressed against the waist to prevent upper arms from moving. Keep wrists in alignment with forearms so wrists and arms will move together.

3Seated overhead extension: works the triceps (back of upper arms).

Sitting on the ball, hold weight over head with both hands. Bending arms at the elbow, lower weight behind head. Return to original position and repeat.

Tips: Always keep elbows pointing forward, framing your face. Do not do this exercise if you have shoulder concerns.Knee to shoulder rotation: works lower body, the core and upper body. In a squat position, reach to knee with a medicine ball or light weights. As you lift up, rotate hips and slowly follow through with a straight arm over opposite shoulder.

Tip: Do not lock knees or elbows.

It's not too late to get in shape— really 02/25/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 8:55am]

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