July 6, 2013

Use it or Lose it: Staying Active into Your Golden Years. ~ Keith Villanueva

Being active reduces your risk of developing a whole range of preventable health related issues.

“Use it or lose it” is a saying that we (will) hear often as we age, and it holds a lot of truth. As we enter our golden years, we naturally begin to lose flexibility, strength, height, bone density, coordination, balance, etc. But the key thing that we can do to slow this process: stay active.

I have been a fitness trainer since 1997, and have had the good fortune of training people of all age groups, especially people in their 70’s and beyond. This has been a blessing for me.

For older adults, it’s all about staying functionally strong, agile, and flexible in order to stay healthy.

Being healthy and active helps us live the productive and vital life that we so deserve.

Did you know that walking regularly decreases your risk of getting Alzheimer’s and dementia by increasing oxygen flow to the brain? Other benefits of walking include increased bone density, a stronger cardiopulmonary system and decreased muscle loss in the lower extremities. The latter contributes to maintaining and/or increasing motor skills, coordination, balance, circulation, VO2 Max, and neural pathways.

Below are some more examples of activities with great health benefits.

Everyday activities:

  • Walking your dog
  • Long walks
  • Walking up stairs
  • Cleaning the house
  • Landscaping/Gardening
  • Dancing around the house
  • Bike riding
  • Playing an instrument
  • Reading (exercises the brain)

Activities to do at a facility or privately:

Our goal should be to incorporate physical actives into our daily lives. Staying active should be invigorating and fun. Group activities increase motivation and create a positive active social environment.

We are designed to be around people—no one ever needs to be alone. Look into neighborhood community centers for group activities.

It usually takes a few weeks to get into the swing of things and to build new behavioral habits. Once a few weeks pass by, being active will be a natural part of your life. You will feel happier, more energized and full of life. All you have to do is start moving more and you will soon see the benefits of being active. The proof is in the pudding, so please give it a chance.

Some tips to give you a head start:

  • Try to get 30 minutes minimum of physical activity a day.
  • Walk at least six miles total a week.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet of healthier food choices (more natural foods and less processed foods).
  • Drink more water.
  • Get seven to nine hours of quality sleep. Napping is a great way to ensure that you get enough sleep. Lack of sleep (less than five hours a night) has been linked to a higher risk of stroke.

Stress management:

  • Have some alone/quiet time to relax your mind (silence).
  • Laugh a little (don’t sweat the small stuff).
  • Surround yourself with positive, loving, like-minded and supportive people.

I see that this will be a start of a beautiful thing. Live life to the fullest, because you are life. Being active and healthy enables you to be more productive.

*Always consult with your physician before starting a new exercise routine.


Keith Villanueva lives in New York City and work as a full-time FDNY firefighter. He is a certified Personal Trainer under the NSCA (National Strength & Conditioning Association), holds a degree in Allied Health Sciences and majored in exercise sciences. He is a yoga instructor under Dharma Mittra and leads Kirtan. He also has authored a book on how to play the harmonium.


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  • Asst. Editor: Renee Picard
  • Ed: Bryonie Wise




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