According to The National Institute on Aging, less than one-third of Americans over 55 are physically active. But those who have adopted a regular exercise program are living longer and enjoying their years to the fullest.

In fact, regardless of their age or state of health, older adults can significantly slow the deterioration of both body and mind by engaging in regular cardiovascular exercise and strength training.

Research shows that older adults who exercise have a lower risk of coronary heart disease, lower risk of hypertension, decreased blood pressure, control of late-onset diabetes, relief for arthritis pain, increased bone density, reduced risk of fractured bones, better balance, the ability to avoid accidental injuries, maintenance of personal independence and can engage in active activities such as skiing, running and cycling.

Trainer and track competitor Bill Collins is proof that an active lifestyle promotes good health throughout your life. At age 53, Collins holds the world age group record in the USA Masters Outdoor Track and Field Championships as well as the 200-meter record in three different age groups.

He’s won 10 World Masters titles and more than 70 American Masters crowns, and he hasn’t been beaten in years. His world records in the 100, 200, and most recently, 400-meter races, make him the fastest runner alive for his age.

Collins should inspire anyone who leads a sedentary lifestyle, especially older adults who, at 50, are slowing down or feel it’s too late to start an exercise program. Collins has no intention of slowing down. Presently, he is only a half-second off his best running time, achieved at age 18. In fact, he ran faster at age 50 than at 40, thanks in part to a healthy exercise plan.

For those who are older like Collins and want to get in shape, the American Academy of Family Physicians offers the following tips for starting an exercise program.

Wear comfortable, well-fitting clothing and sturdy shoes with good arch support and an elevated and cushioned heel to absorb shock. Collins’ friends call him “X-man” for the

CW-X Performance Conditioning Wear tights he wears.

It’s a new technology that allows runners of all ages to maximize their performance because it supports muscles and joints and reduces fatigue. Collins wears them while running, biking, and hiking. For more information, visit

Check with your doctor, and then start slowly with exercises you are most comfortable with. You’ll be less likely to injure yourself, and you will prevent soreness. Start with walking. As you become used to it, you can increase the intensity of your workout.

Engage in some type of aerobic activity, such as walking, swimming or bicycling, for at least 30 minutes every day and add resistance or strength training two days per week.

Take the time to warm up before each exercise session by walking slowly or stretching, for at least five minutes, then cool down with more stretching.

Don’t exercise if you feel under the weather, have a cold, the flu, or another illness. Wait until you feel better. If more than two weeks pass, be sure to start slowly again.

If your muscles or joints are sore the day after exercising, you may have overexerted yourself. Next time, exercise at a lower intensity.

If pain or discomfort persists, if you have chest pain or pressure, have trouble breathing or have excessive shortness of breath, are light-headed or dizzy, have difficulty with balance, or feel nauseous while exercising, talk to your doctor immediately.

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