Ask a Trainer: Silver Sneakers

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Question 1: I know that I should get more exercise, but I don’t know where to start. –Mary Boone

Question 2: Why do I need to exercise? I’m too old to start. –John S.

I want to address both of you, John and Mary, together, because up front the message is the same: everybody has to start somewhere, sometime. While it's never too late to start improving your health, now is the most important time for people over 50. The benefits for a mature population are physical, emotional, mental, and …yes, even financial!

The human body is capable of building muscle throughout your lifetime, John, regardless of age. Exercise — particularly a regular, focused, programmatic approach — means that you see your energy improve almost instantly, as well as sleep, digestive health and cardiovascular health. As we mature, many people are concerned with the risk of falling and injuring themselves. Nothing is better for preventing this than a strong core that helps you stay stable and flexible and agile. Men, for example, can improve the muscle strength in their back and abdominal muscles as well as their legs, and women find it particularly important to improve upper body strength (shoulders and arms.) Regardless of your gender, the body wants to be equally strong — front to back, left to right, top to bottom. It's the beauty of the human body; it naturally seeks balance.


Anytime Fitness

Rhett Wickham assists a client at Anytime Fitness in Winter Park.

Getting started is simple, Mary. Get up, get in the gym, and select a trainer to guide you. If you're more comfortable with a mature trainer there are plenty of us making a difference for young and mature alike. Going to a gym for the first time without a trainer is like visiting a foreign country without consulting a good guide — you risk missing out on the best benefits and, worse, injuring yourself. Trainers teach you carefully, slowly, thoughtfully so that you feel comfortable and see results. A trainer can help guide your nutrition and get rid of the confusions about diet; plus we want you to have the foods you enjoy not just rice cakes and fish, I promise!

Remember what I said about financial benefits? Well, many clients I've trained have had their doctor reduce — or in some instances completely eliminate — medications for high blood pressure, cholesterol and other conditions improved by exercise and good nutrition. The potential for money saved on medication and extended, repeat visits to health care specialists is substantial. Check with your insurance programs to see if they offer a discount — or even free membership — to the gym, such as Silver Sneakers.

Finally, why start late in life? My favorite quote about health and wellness is from Socrates and I repeat it every day, "No citizen has a right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training ... what a crime it is for one to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which their body is capable." You can have a longer, healthier, happier life. Exercise science is far more advanced now and we know from years of research that people who engage in some form of vigorous exercise, for an hour a day at least three days a week, add years to their life. Not just hours and days, but happier, healthier, more independent years of living. Emerging research is pointing toward exercise as a way to improve mental health and counter the effects of diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Women can increase bone density, men can improve their performance in leisure activities such as golf and tennis, and we all improve our sexual health (shhhh ... don't tell the 20-somethings we're still active; let it be a surprise.)

So find a health club, gym or exercise studio, take a friend — or meet new friends, and join the revolution of age-defying exercisers realizing the unlimited potential of their bodies. Oh, yes, and when in doubt, always ask a trainer!

Rhett Wickham is a Certified Personal Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Coach at Anytime Fitness in Winter Park and he can be reached at 321-972-5833 for both personal and group training. For answers to your health and fitness questions email: Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, Anytime Fitness, Winter Park prides itself on providing a friendly, well-maintained facility featuring top-quality exercise equipment. Members enjoy the benefit of being able to use any of more than 2,300 Anytime Fitness clubs now open in all 50 states and 19 countries. For more information on Anytime Fitness, visit