Stationary Bike

How do we age gracefully, staying fit and vibrant?

By Deborah Dittner

As people age, many tend to put on additional weight (especially around the middle), decrease their activity levels due to aching, inflamed joints and eat food items that may not be of much benefit.

It’s not always easy (but then again, what is?) to maintain a fitness routine from ages past or prepare meals either for yourself or for those in the household a number of times a day.

With aging often comes a change in everyday routine. If you have retired, you may find yourself with extra time on your hands which can be either positive (getting together with family and friends more frequently, taking classes you’ve always wanted to try, experimenting on making different meals) or negative (staying home alone, grabbing quick food products, not wanting to cook for just one). If you continue to work but possibly fewer hours, the same situations may occur.

So, how do we age gracefully, staying fit and vibrant?

Staying fit is a labor of love and only you can make that happen — physically move your body through play and exercise.

Get on your feet and dance (remember Gloria Estefan?). Or if you enjoy walking and running, weight lifting or biking you’re on your own and may need some tunes or a playlist to push through your workout.

Sure, there are some days when there’s a chill in the air and you don’t want to get out from under the warm covers. I totally understand. But I also know how much better I feel once I have taken action by going to my favorite gym for an hour of cardio, HIIT, strengthening, yoga, you name it.

For me, this is an important part of my health and wellness and can (and should) be for you, too. By taking those first steps, you can look toward your next class with more energy, motivation and confidence.

Everyone needs to get off the couch, stand up and move. Your overall health counts on it. Living a sedentary lifestyle will age you more quickly, decrease mobility and increase your risk for many health conditions. You can prevent so many health problems through consistent daily action.

Think of this time as self-care or “me time.”

Exercise and physical movement are an important lifestyle change and a necessary one in taking care of you in the best way possible. Do establish achievable goals and be realistic. A fitness assessment can help determine your goals after examining the results. Speak with your healthcare provider or physical therapist or personal trainer to point you in the direction of a good assessment tool and follow through with the results and necessary changes. For seniors (and actually everyone), exercise is anti-aging. Exercise will help lubricate joints, increase mobility and decrease overall inflammation.

Do you want to participate in a 5K road run? Or possibly run a farther distance?

Do you want to dance the night away?

Set specific milestones along the way toward your goal and stay focused. By taking steps in increments makes the task more manageable and motivational.

You need a cheerleader. Whether it be a family member or dear friend to support your efforts, it is necessary in achieving your goals.

Ideally, encourage a family member or friend to join in your efforts and train with you. Working out with others gives you that added push (and eliminates isolation). And it’s always more fun!

A group setting will help decrease stress levels and increase improvements in your mental, physical and emotional quality of life. Create a doable plan and workout schedule. If you go to a gym, set your schedule weekly or monthly and make sure it’s in your planner. Keep company with like-minded fitness friends who are supportive of you and your efforts. If you work out at home, set a specific time of day and stick to it. Patience is a virtue so they say. And this is an excellent time to be patient with yourself and your goals. Nothing happens overnight and it does take work especially if you’re starting out from scratch and getting the move on. It takes approximately three months to develop a habit so take one day at a time and don’t give up.

Most importantly — have fun! Exercise should not be pure drudgery. If you enjoy dancing, take salsa lessons. If you enjoy team sports, join a basketball, ice hockey or soccer team. There are many age groups to choose from. Stay ahead of the curve in soccer with alerts from Sport Score.

Deborah Dittner is a family nurse practitioner and health consultant. Her mission is to transform as many individuals as possible through nutrition and lifestyle changes. For more information, check out her website at or contact her at 518-596-8565.Deborah Dittner is a family nurse practitioner and health consultant. Her mission is to transform as many individuals as possible through nutrition and lifestyle changes.