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Fitness: Getting and Staying Active (cont.)

Physical Activity As You Get Older

It's never too late to start getting active. You can benefit from physical activity even if you think of yourself as "elderly" or you already have conditions such as arthritis or heart disease. Being more active will help you feel better and may even help you live longer.

If you haven't been active for a long time, you may have no idea where to start. The important thing is to take that first step—and make that first step a small one.

If you're an older adult and are starting activity, be sure to:

  • Start safely.Talk to your doctor before you start, and don't overdo it.
  • Keep the benefits in mind. Activity and exercise can strengthen your heart and give you more energy, make falls less likely, and help you sleep at night. It can improve blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Know when to stop. Stop your activity if you are panting or are very short of breath or have pain in your chest.

For more information, see:

Preventing Injury and Illness

Physical activity is good for your health, but you can hurt yourself if you don't do it right. Always keep safety in mind.

  • Learn about the risks of any new activity you begin. Take lessons if you need to know how to do exercises with proper form and technique to avoid injury.
  • Wear clothing that is right for your activity and the weather. Wear shoes that have good support for your feet.
  • Always use the safety gear that goes with your chosen activity, like helmets and knee pads. Learn about the proper fit of that gear.
  • Start each activity session slowly. Then work up to your normal level.
  • Pay attention to pain and tiredness. They are your body's way of telling you to slow down. Muscle soreness is common when you try a new activity, but pain can mean you're injured. If you are very tired, you may be doing too much too soon.

Watch out for these injuries and illnesses as you exercise:

  • Overuse injuries can happen when you use a certain joint over and over without giving it time to recover. Tennis elbow is an example of an overuse injury.
  • Dehydration. You can lose too much water through sweating if you don't replace it by drinking fluids as you exercise. Follow these guidelines to avoid dehydration when you exercise.
  • Heat exhaustion, heatstroke, or dehydration may be caused by exercising in heat and humidity.
    Quick Tips: Staying Active in Hot Weather
  • Overhydration during exercise is unusual, but it is a medical emergency when it happens. You can become overhydrated from drinking too much fluid. This is rare, but it can happen to people who do strenuous exercise for a long time, such as long-distance runners. Symptoms include:
    • Feeling bloated (your watchband may feel tight).
    • Feeling sick to your stomach.
    • Feeling confused.
  • Exercise-induced asthma can occur even if you don't have asthma at any other time.
  • Overtraining is rare, but it can make you tired and grouchy, as well as raising your risk for injury and illness.
  • Heart attack is rare, but be aware of the symptoms, such as chest pain and pressure, shortness of breath, and nausea and vomiting.
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