Getting Active

Beginning a fitness program opens doors to new adventures, new friendships, and a sense of well-being.

When asked about his dancing, the actor, Fred Astaire once said, "I just put my feet in the air and move them around." To have seen Astaire in motion, his dancing seemed as effortless as it was elegant. Those of us not blessed with his grace and athleticism could only watch in amazement.

Life is not an equal playing field. Some people are born with exceptional speed and grace, while others struggle to keep up. As we age, our agility fades, making it more difficult to participate in the sports we once did.

Those of us who believe that winning is the be-all and end-all of athletic endeavor are bound for disappointment. The fact is that physical activity brings far greater awards to those who are willing to accept their personal limitations and work within them. Ask the man who begins each day with a simple walk: he will most likely say that his day would not be complete without it.

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First steps

The human body craves motion, just as it craves sunlight, water and food. Movement is inherent to the creative process and problem solving, along with physical and spiritual well-being. Although older adults can't engage in the vigorous exercise their younger counterparts do, there is a world of activity open to those willing to take on the challenge.

Sedentary adults should begin with a visit to the doctor. A simple checkup will determine if any medical conditions preclude engaging in moderate physical activity.

Given the green light, begin an exercise program slowly. Take the opportunity to explore a new activity. Water aerobics, Tai Chi, Yoga, dance, swimming, walking and circuit training are all low-impact sports that increase fitness with minimal stress on the joints.

Join a fitness club, the local YMCA or find a group to be active with. Fitness classes can open the door to new friendships. You may be surprised to find that a neighbor shares your interest in ballroom dancing, cycling or hiking.

Physical activity isn't limited to the health club. It can include gardening, shopping, cleaning or golf. Any activity that uses muscles increases strength and improves the body's overall health.

Big rewards

People who walk four-to seven days per week reduce their risk of disability, and suffer fewer functional impairments. Studies show that physical activity can also reduce the risk of certain cancers.

"Life delights in life," said the poet, William Blake. And nothing is more inherent to life than being in motion.

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