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Arthritis : Gentle, Convenient Exercises for Boomers

Wina Sturgeon

Despite the efforts of those who want all boomers to become healthy active exercisers, for some people it just isn't going to happen. Some boomers live in cities where going out for a run or a walk is risky business; so they lock all their locks and stay inside. Others have a favorite TV program or two which they want to sit and watch while stroking their hands along a little furry animal beside them. Still others have spent a hard day at work, and don't even want to THINK about doing anything more.

That's okay. You really don't have to go to a gym or lift weights to get a workout - at least, not all the time. There are perfectly good exercises that you can do wherever you happen to be - on the couch, in an easy chair, standing in front of a sink. These exercises won't build big muscles or substitute for a more thorough workout, but they will keep your body functional; and it's much better than just sitting around doing nothing.

Here's one good exercise: sit back against a chair or couch. Grip something small, like a cordless phone, between your feet. Lift the phone up until your legs are straight, then put your feet on the floor again and let the phone go. Doing this for 15 or 20 repetitions will work every one of your leg muscles, improve your ankle flexibility and warm up your leg joints, especially the knee. Do it while watching the news every evening, and your legs will be stronger in just a few weeks.

A simple way to build calf muscles is to just stand up on your toes for a few seconds. The calves are important for walking, for balance and for sure-footedness. Doing this exercise dozens of times throughout your day will make your calves strong. You can make it a habit: two toe stands every time you open the refrigerator door, a few more every time you run water into the sink, three or four more before you get into a car. Spend a few minutes at a time doing them, until you feel the muscles in your calves working.

Give your shoulder joints a good range-of-motion workout at least once a day. The shoulder is the most mobile and unstable joint in the body; it's important to keep this joint flexible. There are two ways to do this while sitting at a desk or watching television: first, stretch your arms out and make both forward and backward circles with your hand. Second; put your hands on your shoulders and make the circles with your elbows. Finish by clasping your fingers together and lifting your arms straight up in the air.

Finally, do a simple stretching/flexibility exercise to take stiffness away from the middle of your body: first, toss some pennies or paper clips on the floor close to where you are standing. Bending at the knees and hips, lean over to pick up one of the objects, then stand straight again. Set it down or in a pocket and bend over to pick up another one - this time with the other hand. Keep your spine and neck straight, don't curve your back. Crouch down if you have to. This exercise will make it easy for you to bend and twist; no more huffing and puffing just to slip on a shoe or pick up a dropped pen. It will also improve the precision of your finger grip, thus eliminating those boomer curses of the dropped key or knocked-over glass. You can do it anytime during the day, or make it a habit by doing it every evening before you go to bed.

(Wina Sturgeon is an active boomer based in Salt Lake City who mountain bikes, rides BMX, skates on both ice blades and wheels, lifts weights and gardens to stay in shape. For more on travel, fitness, sports and health, pick up the latest issue of Women's Adventure Magazine or visit www.womensadventuremagazine.com.)

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