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Seniors participate in Bone Builders program at the Bennington Senior Center.

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When combined with a healthy diet, quality sleep, an active social life and preventative medical care, there nothing is more powerful than exercise to keep us feeling younger, stronger, mobile and independent. But incorporating exercise into our daily lives can be challenging for some. Here are six key concepts to get you started or to reinvigorate your exercise routine.

Put exercise on your schedule. As they say, failing to plan is planning to fail. So, consider the best time for exercise, and work it into your day. Many people find it beneficial to make exercise the first thing they do in the morning. Doing so holds many important benefits, including improved sleep, mood, focus and more.

Start low and slow. Deciding to be more active, and thinking about all of the rewarding aspects of a healthy lifestyle, can be really exciting. Those thoughts can lead people to do too much too soon, which can cause soreness or injury and derail healthy efforts altogether. Instead, start slow. Consider your current activity level and add 15 minutes a day or increase the degree of intensity by a small amount.

Those who are not active at all could begin with 15 minutes of low-impact exercises a day. Low-impact exercises — like swimming, cycling, walking and chair yoga — allow you to move without putting a lot of added stress on your joints. As you become stronger, you can move on to longer or more intense exercise sessions.

Upgrade with some variety. Once you have a routine of a few weeks, add exercises that improve strength, mobility, balance and flexibility. Yoga and Tai Chi are two excellent opportunities to combine these concepts into a single workout. You might walk three days each week while doing a yoga video on three other days.

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Increase the duration. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we should build up the duration of our workouts until we have reached at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise per week. Aim for at least two sessions, on different days, of strength-building exercise. Remember, some exercise is better than none.

Make it fun and enjoyable. The best workout is the one you will consistently do. There are so many ways to make workouts fun. Invite friends along, join a class, or dance to your favorite music. You can also cultivate an active outdoor hobby, like hiking, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Be sure to follow safety recommendations. Outdoor workouts include extra benefits, like reduced anxiety, improved sleep and strength-building terrain.

If it hurts, adjust or stop. Pain is not gain; it’s an indication that something could be going wrong. If you run into pain, do a less intense modification or stop. Choose an exercise that is more comfortable for you. Ask your doctor if you might be able to see a physical therapist to get you off to a good start.

As long as you continue to try new things and slowly and safely increase the intensity and duration of your workouts, you will be experiencing the major benefits movement has to offer.

Nina Nunes is a physical therapy assistant who works at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center outpatient therapy and in SVMC's inpatient units. SVMC is part of Southwestern Vermont Health Care.


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