Get Fit Now To Save Money Later

RunHYANNIS – Staying fit in your middle-aged years is good for you, but it can benefit more than your just your health. A physically active lifestyle can also save you a lot money down the road when you are thinking about retirement.

In the first study of its kind, researchers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville examined close to 20,000 healthy people. Participants were given a cardiorespiratory fitness assessment at the average age of 49 years. Twenty-two years later doctors compared the outcomes of those with high mid-life fitness levels to those with low fitness levels by examining their average medical costs from Medicare from 1999 through 2009.

Average annual health costs for both men and women were substantially lower for those who were physically fit. Additionally, the low fitness group had a much higher rate of hospitalization and more frequent trips to their physician’s office.

Finding the time to realistically work exercise into the day is what prevents many people from exercising even if they know they should, said Cape Cod Healthcare physical trainer Danny O’Keefe, ATC, TPI.

“I think the big misconception is that people assume when they start on an exercise or fitness program, that it has to take over their day or their life,” O’Keefe said. “People need to understand that 20 to 30 minutes a day is fine. You don’t have to go crazy. It’s just a matter of getting up and moving.”

Even exercising a short amount of time is enough to make changes in your body. Blood pressure and resting heart rate go down. Exercise also improves arthritis, which begins to become an issue for many people in middle age.

“It’s around that mid-life period where you start to lose the mobility and the strength,” he said.

O’Keefe explained that once this occurs, your body makes accommodations. For example, if your right hip hurts, you start to favor it. Pretty soon in addition to a bad hip, now you have a knee problem on the opposite side of your body. The next thing may be a trip to the doctor, an MRI and physical therapy.

“That’s where healthcare costs can snowball and start going through the roof,” he said.

Problems accelerate because most people spend a lot of their time sitting – at their desks at work, in their car for the commute to and from work, and then in front of a television at night. Even O’Keefe, whose job is to get people moving, says it can be difficult to fit exercise in with his job and family obligations. He often takes laps around the office during the day just to keep things moving.

“The scary part is that a sedentary lifestyle was recently found to be more deadly than smoking,” O’Keefe said. “When you’re moving and getting your heart rate up just a short time every day you can overcome the effects of sitting at a desk.”

Ready to start? O’Keefe offers these tips to ensure success:

Define your Process

The first step is to change what you’re currently doing.  Start by reprioritizing.  Wake up a half hour early.  Use the time you would otherwise watch the news or troll Facebook.  Twenty or 30 minutes a day is more than enough time for an excellent exercise program.

Burn Your Scale

The biggest mistake people make when beginning an exercise program is setting their goal strictly for weight loss.  The scale doesn’t drop fast enough and you burn out, or you do reach your weight loss goal and think “I’m all done!”  Instead, set a performance goal that will drive you to get better.  You’ll find that by training to perform you will be more likely to stay committed to your program.  You will still lose the weight, but that’s an added benefit.  Focus rather on how much better your body feels.

Cross Train

No one enjoys doing the same exercises day in and day out.  Cross training is important for two reasons- it keeps your mind and your body engaged so that you don’t burn out and it helps you to avoid injury because your program is constantly varied.  Design your program around swimming, biking, yoga, tai chi, interval training and recreational sports.  Training your body doesn’t have to a painful, monotonous process.  Have fun and do what you love.

By LAURIE HIGGINS, OneCape Health News

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