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For Seniors: How to Take
the Fear Out of Exercise

Although exercise is especially important for people 50 years old and over, many older Americans who haven't had an active lifestyle are often faced with a dilemma: They want to get in shape and be active, but they have no training and are intimidated by the young "buff" bodies at the gym. In many cases, they give up before they even start.

The "No Fear Strength Training" program, launched by fitness director Kathy Wenzlau at Sun City Grand, Ariz., Del Webb Corporation's adult community near Phoenix, provides an example of how seniors can participate in an exercise regimen. Some of Wenzlau's "No Fear" tips, which can be used for individuals of all ages:

Allay Fears. Increase the comfort level about a particular exercise, like weightlifting, by equating it to everyday tasks like lifting and carrying groceries, putting things on shelves or playing with grandchildren.

Motivation. Think of a variety of reasons why it is important to build strength, such as improving looks, defining muscle, trimming fat and building bone mass, which reduces the risk of fractures. Feeling stronger also builds self-confidence.

Ease into the process. After obtaining a doctor's approval to proceed, start out slowly, maybe just 20 minutes on a treadmill or exercise bike, followed by simple exercises using moderate hand weights.

Consistency. Strength training should be conducted at least twice a week, but seniors will benefit most from training or exercise of some kind at lease three to five days a week.

Boredom. Boredom is the enemy of fitness training for people of any age, and no less so for seniors. If boredom sets in, try encouraging something different. If weight training gets boring, get in the pool and particiapte in water aerobics or a class outside. Keep the program interesting.

"It's never too late to start strength training," said Wenzlau, adding that senior pain sufferers do a disservice to themselves by not working on their strength and flexibility.

"People who are in pain tend to be very guarded in their movement," she said. "We can help those in pain really increase their range of motion — and improve their attitude about life — through a combination of appropriate stretching and strengthening exercises.

"I've seen people with arthritis, for example, have great increases in strength, accompanied by less pain and stiffness," Wenzlau added.

Address: Del Webb Corporation, P.O. Box 1705, Sun City West, AZ 85372-1705.

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