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Fitness Over Fifty
Three Exercises to Get You Started

It's time to take action. If getting older is the problem, exercise is the solution. Up to eighty percent of the health problems commonly linked with aging can be postponed or prevented if you keep fit. Our sedentary lifestyle is killing us.

Dr. Leaf of Harvard Medical School said this:

"Exercise strengthens the heart and lungs, increases circulation, reduces body fat, relieves stress, keeps bonds strong and lowers blood pressure. It strengthens and tones your muscles and keeps joints, tendons, and ligaments flexible, allowing you to move more easily. It increases your energy level, aids digestion, helps you sleep better, improves your appearance and overall sense of well being. Following an exercise program gives you a sense of self reliance, self mastery, power, control, and an opportunity to set and achieve goals. You don't have to be a marathon runner to achieve results. A study conducted by the Institute for Aerobics Research and Cooper Clinic in Dallas shows that moderate exercise can substantially reduce your chance of dying of heart disease or cancer."

To help you start exercising, here's a simple program you can use that doesn't require any special equipment.

Warm-up to get your muscles ready to work. If the weather is good, head outside and walk for five or ten minutes. When the weather is bad, stay indoors and walk in place. Stationary bikes, treadmills, stair steppers or rowing machines can all be used to get you ready.

The Bird Dog

Exercise 1: The Bird Dog

  1. Start by getting down on your hands and knees with your hands below your shoulders and knees below your hips. Pull your shoulder blades together and lower them toward your hips.

  2. Your head and neck should be in a neutral position, your elbows slightly flexed and a natural arch in your lower back.

  3. Extend one arm out in front of your shoulder with your fingertips just above the ground. This arm should be locked at the elbow, wrist in a neutral position, fingers together and the palm flat.

  4. Straighten the leg opposite the extended arm, locking the knee and pointing the toe, resting the toes just above the ground. Inhale.

  5. Exhale while slowly raising your straight arm and leg up and out. Focus on engaging the abdomen, glute and shoulder of the working limbs. When the upper arm and leg are parallel to the ground, stop and hold.

  6. Inhale and slowly lower to the starting position keeping your fingers and toes slightly above the ground. Repeat ten times on each side.

Key Points: Focus on engaging the core and stabilizing the spine (the main purpose of this exercise.) Your body weight should be evenly distributed between the supporting arm and leg. Think about the working arm and leg being pulled in opposite directions as if in a tug of war. To maintain proper spinal position, the focal point for the eyes should be straight ahead, towards the ground.

Common Cheats: Do not lose the natural arch in the back or tilt the pelvis. Avoid locking the elbow of the supporting arm. Do not allow the fingers or toes of the straight limb to touch the ground. Do not shift the majority of the weight onto the supporting leg.

Squats - Body Weight
Body Weight Squats shown without chair behind acting as a spotter.

Exercise 2: Squats-Body Weight

  1. Stand in front of a sturdy, armless chair with the feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and a soft bend in the knees. From the hips, slightly lean forward so that your body weight is placed over the ankles. Hold your arms out in front of you parallel to the ground.

  2. Inhale and slowly bend at the knees, dropping your butt back over a four-second count until you are in a nearly seated position. Your knees should never go past the toes.

  3. Pause for one second at the bottom. Don't sit down; the chair is only there to catch you if you fall.

  4. Exhale and return to standing position over a two-second count while keeping the back straight.

  5. Repeat ten times for the first set. Rest one to two minutes, then perform a second set of ten repetitions.

Note: If the exercise is too difficult, place a couple of pillows on the chair; use your arms for assistance or only squat four to six inches.

For more resistance, stand further away from the wall.

Exercise 3: Wall Push-ups

  1. Face a wall that is unobstructed by hangings, furniture or windows. Stand an arm's length away and place your palms at shoulder height and width against the wall. Lean forward.

  2. Inhale. Bend at the elbows, slowly lowering your body towards the walls over a count of four until your forehead nearly touches the wall.

  3. Tighten the stomach and hold. Exhale and extend the arms, returning to the starting position over a count of two.

  4. Repeat ten times for the first set. Rest one to two minutes, then perform a second set of ten repetitions.

Note: Keep your back and knees straight throughout the exercise. Do not drop your hips or round your back.

When you're done, cool down by doing a little stretching or walk for another five to ten minutes. Repeat this program at least twice a week and you're on your way to better health.

Part 1

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beginning any diet or exercise program.