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 Reprinted from Mature Fitness (formerly published as the Senior Fitness Bulletin) by
 permission of the American Senior Fitness Association (800) 243-1478,



By Mary Ann Wilson, R.N. 

Mary Ann Wilson, R.N., is the originator and host of public television's "Sit and Be Fit," the gentle half hour exercise program for senior citizens. With her background as a registered nurse specializing in rehabilitation, post-polio care, and geriatrics, she is a recognized expert in the area of senior fitness.

As television producer and host of an exercise show specializing in fitness for the senior population and people with physical limitations, I am constantly asked for advice on how to keep functionally fit. Because Americans are living longer, we are concerned about retaining our youthful bounce and vigor. We all know the aging process brings about structural and functional changes to the body, but what exactly can we do to make the most of our middle and later years of life?

The answer is easy:

exercise, exercise, exercise.

We cannot stop Mother Nature's clock, but we can slow it down. Many signs of aging are reversible. General physical activity, not just structured exercise, can help to promote major health benefits such as:

Another benefit, according to researchers in Salt Lake City and Philadelphia, is that physical activity appears to increase an older person's intelligence. Whether this is a result of increased circulation or adrenaline rushing throughout the body is still unknown, but one fact is clear: our minds do become more alert.

The interest in increased fitness is out there. During a twelve day period this past November, I received over 300 telephone calls from viewers interested in gentle, easy exercises. The senior population's inability to exercise as they once did leads to frustration and depression. This often causes them to drop out from the exercise scene just when they need these benefits the most. Additionally, an illness or degenerative condition compounds the trouble and makes the road to recovery seem monumental.

Don't let health problems keep you from starting an exercise program. Exercise can make a real difference not only in how you feel physically, but also mentally and emotionally. Fifty nine year old Patricia Hileman from Thonotossa, Florida, who has arthritis, knows this only too well. Bedridden for one year, her muscles had deteriorated, leaving her to feel sorry for herself. After only one week of performing gentle exercise with my show, she saw a dramatic improvement in her physical and mental condition. Now nothing is stopping her; she fully participates in everyday activities.

Not just any exercises will do to help improve the quality of our lives. The older population needs routines that target specific physical conditions associated with aging. In addition, we who are over fifty want workouts that are well paced, stimulating, relaxing, and easy to follow.

Before beginning an exercise program, first consult your doctor.

Here are some tips to get you started:

As one television viewer from Des Moines, Iowa, wrote me concerning gentle exercises, "At last, exercises I can keep up with. I feel so much better!" And you can, too! Invest time and energy in yourself by exercising. The rewards are immediate and long lasting. You won't regret it! 

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