Fitness First: Five Top Tips for Fitness Success

Krista Howell
By Krista Howell September 15, 2017 21:28

A reader who has followed my column over the past decade told me that exercises she has enjoyed have become uncomfortable now that she uses a walker.

She asked if they can be adapted to the sitting position. The answer is yes: I encouraged her to listen to her body about what was effective and safe, and to continue doing similar activities but in a chair. After talking she felt confident to continue reaching for a healthy, independent lifestyle.

Over the past 30 years I’ve taught thousands of students with physical limitations. I’m always moved by their desire to maintain and build health and fitness even when facing significant illness or injury.

My mission is to motivate – particularly those with the most difficultly moving. The barriers to exercise are real.

You may have chronic pain or orthopedic problems, or simply don’t realize how movement can help your body.

What’s the hardest part of an exercise routine? Getting started. Here are my five top tips for success:

  1. Walk a mile in your own shoes. It takes most people 15 to 25 minutes to do it. Adding this to your daily routine is the easiest way to start an exercise program. Walking increases the blood’s need for oxygen. It’s free, doesn’t require special equipment and is the best thing you can physically do to improve your quality of life. Finding a flat place to walk is not impossible. Start at a shopping center (The Junction in East Sonora, for example) or a high-school track until you’re ready for longer walks or trail hikes.
  2. Set modest goals. If you set the bar too high, you may get discouraged and quit. Establish a plan that is safe and within your physical abilities, and don’t be afraid to adapt exercises to your comfort zone. If you need help, get advice from an exercise specialist/physiologist or physical therapist.
  3. Socialize. Take one of the many exercise classes offered for older adults throughout the region. Exercising in a group can motivate, educate and connect you with new friends. Success and accountability usually go hand in hand. A class puts you on a schedule; all you have to do is get there. And it’s amazing how fun it is to exercise with friends.
  4. Break down barriers. It’s easy to find excuses not to exercise. Lack of time – real or perceived – is a common barrier. Try changing your schedule to make exercise a priority. Pain is another common excuse, but exercise can reduce that pain. The truth is, it will hurt a lot more if you don’t exercise.

You are never too old, too overweight or in so much pain that physical activity won’t help. For 13 years, I coached adaptive water aerobics to just this type of patient. Most weren’t swimmers at first, but the progress they made was amazing.

Activity may help lift depression that can accompany aging, pain or disability. Studies of body physiology prove that minimal exertion in small doses can increase muscle mass and cardiorespiratory endurance. You don’t have to be an athlete to be healthy.

  1. Mix it up. Varying your routine will prevent boredom and help you avoid overusing muscles. Include exercises that increase agility: Walk on a beautiful trail, go kayaking, or simply do household activities like folding the laundry or washing the car. Add strength-building exercises such as wall push-ups, squats or lifting weights. And don’t forget balance exercises: Stand on one leg for 20 seconds, walk heel-to-toe for a few steps or walk sideways or backwards (make sure there is a counter or rail to hold onto). Include a variety of classes such as tai chi, yoga, water aerobics or Zumba. And if you’re tech savvy, you’ll find lots of exercise classes on YouTube.

Here’s the bottom line: Just move more. If structured exercise isn’t your thing, then park far away from the store and enjoy the walk. Spread out your chores during the day.

Are you a TV watcher? Get up between shows and walk for at least five minutes an hour. Keep track of your activity minutes or steps, whether in a journal or on a wearable device.

With so many choices of exercises and classes, find out what you enjoy and stick with it.

I wish all my readers the confidence and courage to move more and live well. And thank you so much for the positive encouragement all my exercising family has given me.

Exercise physiologist Krista Howell of Sonora works with cardiac patients and teaches senior fitness. Read more of her columns online at

Copyright © 2017 Friends and Neighbors Magazine

Krista Howell
By Krista Howell September 15, 2017 21:28
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