By Amanda Grayson - Contributor

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Seniors can improve health with exercise

May 30, 2017

Do you need a nudge to exercise? Consider this:  With Movement…There’s Improvement!

That’s the theme of the 24th annual National Senior Health & Fitness Day, held each year on the last Wednesday of May.

“People say if exercise were a pill, it would be a blockbuster medication because it treats so many different things. I can’t think of anything exercise doesn’t treat,” says Dr. Dan Trajano, senior medical director at Blue Cross and experienced geriatric physician.

From diabetes to depression, from heart disease to arthritis, there’s strong clinical research evidence that exercise helps.

“We recommend 30 minutes most every day. You can start with just 10 minutes and gradually increase that, or you can do three, 10-minute blocks of exercise,” Dr. Trajano says. “If you have concerns, certainly see a doctor and get a referral to a physical therapist to help guide you.”

We spoke to Dr. Trajano about ways to be physically active later in life. He believes walking and senior fitness classes are especially good options.

Start walking

“Get a good pair of walking shoes and start walking,” says Dr. Trajano.

He says once you have a pair of comfortable, supportive shoes, you can start by going around the block and build from there.

If you’re a son or daughter of an older adult, you might want to encourage your parent(s) to get some steps in. Better yet, walk together.

“If you live nearby, rather than just visiting and sitting on the couch, take some of that time to get outside and go for a walk,” he suggests.

When the weather isn’t so great, there are plenty of indoor options. Your local shopping mall or community center can be a safe, easily accessible place to walk around.

Try a senior fitness class

Fitness classes developed specifically for older adults are also excellent ways to get moving.

Blue Cross retails centers offer a variety of senior fitness classes, including senior yoga, a particularly popular class.

“Everyone is in the same boat, the same age category, doing the same thing. Not only is the fitness part of that wonderful, but so is the social part of that,” says Dr. Trajano.

A variety of classes are offered at gyms and fitness centers, and there’s usually something for everyone. For example, he suggests if you have balance and coordination problems, you might want to try tai chi classes. If you have joint pain, water aerobics classes might feel good.

Make every day a senior health & fitness day

This year, an estimated 100,000 older adults are participating in fitness activities across the country as part of Senior Health & Fitness Day – the nation’s largest health promotion event for older adults.

Dr. Trajano encourages seniors to make every day Senior Health & Fitness Day, because as the theme states, with movement, there really is noticeable improvement.

“You’ll just feel better in general, both physically and mentally. Exercise is very much associated with happiness or better mood, and I think that’s immediate.”

About Dan Trajano M.D.

Dan Trajano serves as Blue Cross’ senior medical director for the STARS and Risk Adjustment Center of Excellence. He is responsible for medical leadership on strategic initiatives to improve quality of medical care, health outcomes and member experience within the Medicare STARS Center for Excellence.

Trajano most recently served as vice president and executive medical director of population health at HealthEast Care System in St. Paul. He received his Doctor of Medicine from the University of Minnesota School of Medicine and an MBA in health care from the University of St. Thomas.

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