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Aging With Exercise

Exercising gets more important with age

By Janice Lloyd, USA TODAY Sooner or later, it is going to happen.

Everyone else starts to look so young. Their walk still has a bounce to it. Their legs still slide into sexy jeans. Their bums are still firm.

So when you find yourself wanting to skip the workout and dash off for a pedicure or hair touch-up instead, don’t go there, dearie.

One person who makes 65 feel like 45 is Jonnye Clark of Jamison, Pa. She wouldn’t consider skipping a workout. She works four days a week as branch manager for an investment firm, works out regularly and still finds time for pedicures. They’re “how I treat myself,” she says.

“My philosophy about aging is you can’t hit a moving target.”

Clark maps out her week around physical activities, which fitness experts recommend as a way of strengthening your body and boosting emotional and mental energy.

“Make a point of doing some kind of daily activity, or at the very least three days a week and the more consistent you are over time, the better you’ll feel,” says Marjorie Albohm, president of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association. Albohm says it’s never too late for Baby Boomers and people in older generation groups to get going again and appreciate the rewards.

“Sometimes you gain weight or it’s harder to exercise and you get discouraged,” she says. “But you have to get to the point of saying, ‘I’m making this a part of my life from this point forward.’ ”

Clark is the perfect role model, Albohm says. She gets the regular aerobic activity and resistance training and works on flexibility, all prescribed by the Department of Health and Human Services in its physical activity guidelines as a way to reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases and promote good health.

Studies show exercise and weight training can also prevent bone loss, a concern for Clark. “I was already getting shorter and losing muscle mass,” she says.

A former ballerina who started dancing when she was 5 and continued through high school, Clark has had to modify her activities as she ages. No more ballet, for instance.

“When I was dancing, I was going to the local Y and dancing on hard, wooden floors, which everyone knows now isn’t good for you,” she says.

Her spine suffered. She had to have back surgery six years ago. Then she got going again and hasn’t looked back.

She does Pilates one or two days a week, swims and gets on the treadmill or elliptical at her gym, and is religious about using the weight machines. She looks forward to getting back out on the golf course when the weather warms up.

“The Pilates really helped me get the flexibility back in my back” and has improved her balance and overall strength, she says.

The ability to bid farewell to a past exercise love and adopt new ones is key, Albohm says, especially for people who develop arthritis as they age and feel pain and stiffness in their joints. Exercise is a powerful tool in managing arthritis, research shows. “It’s very, very important to keep people mobile and strong.”