The research is conclusive. The fountain of youth is exercise. A fit heart feeds the mind.

Staying active and fit as we age is challenging for most people, but here are a few tips to keep you moving, feeling great and maintaining that active lifestyle you desire.

• Listen to your body. Many people believe that no pain no gain theory, but as we age we actually need to listen to what our body is saying to avoid injury. Listen to the voice in your head that tells you to keep moving and exercise regularly, but pay attention to those aches and pains. Some days you may just need to take a break or work out less strenuously than you did in the past. Now might be the time to adjust your workout to a moderate aerobic program that is low impact, yet still provides a vigorous and intense workout. Include weight training for balance and strength and stretching for flexibility.

• Physiology changes. As we age our metabolism, hormones, ligaments and muscles change. This is regardless if you have been dedicated to fitness or been a devote couch potato. Our bodies simply change the way they respond to exercise and diet and this begins as early as our late 30's and early 40's. Our bodies are not as resilient and we need to pay attention when something hurts. When we were 20 working through the pain may have worked alright, but now that we are 50 take note of those early warnings to avoid injury.

• Knee and back issues. Muscles and ligaments are no longer as pliable as they used to be and flexibility begins to diminish. Imbalances in muscles can begin and this contributes to back and knee issues. Becoming more aware of diet and exercise as we age can prevent many of the injuries that commonly happen as we get older. No one wants to admit they are getting older, but you can protect your body and prevent injury by simply paying attention to your routines and modifying them to accommodate the changes in your body.

• Adjust and change workouts. One of the best things we can do for ourselves as we age is change up our exercise routine. By working all our muscles less frequently, but having more variety in our moves and workouts, your body will actually respond better. Also, posture, alignment and muscle conditioning will improve, which all contribute to a healthier body allowing you to feel good.

• Age-related disease. Arthritis, high blood pressure, memory lose, diabetes and high cholesterol often can be reduced and/or brought under control with diet and exercise. The evidence is mounting that exercise is critical to preventing and even reversing many types of disease commonly related with age. Find several things you like to do and then make sure you do them regularly every week. Invest in your health with dedication and vigor and the long-term benefits for a high quality of living longer and actively will be yours.

• Full body workout. Include strength training and stretching to cardio workouts to build better bone density, improve reflex response and flexibility, which all combine to help prevent and avoid injury. You will feel better and be able to enjoy everyday life things. Ensuring that you are getting a full-body workout that includes balance, cardio, flexibility, strength and core will contribute to overall fitness and health in the long run. Research has shown us that exercise is the fountain of youth, but only if we adapt and adjust to accommodate the changes as our body ages.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has issued Physical Activity guidelines for the American People: http://www.physicalactivityplan.org/. Two-and-a-half-hours of cardio exercise a week and two sessions of weight bearing training a week are the minimum recommendations. Figuring out a way to fit this into your life is important and something that we can no longer ignore.

Ahwatukee Foothills resident Cindy Schulze has taught Jazzercise Lite to audiences of all ages at Ahwatukee Jazzercise. Reach her at (602) 292-7521 or jazzisfun@cox.net.

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