by Chris Price
In case you needed to be reminded, staying active is good for you, even well into your golden years. In fact, the aches and pains that Mother Nature throws at us as we age are nothing compared to the severe health consequences that await those who live a sedentary lifestyle. True, you might have to amend your exercise regimen to be more age appropriate, but there’s no reason to go full-on couch potato just because you’ve added a few candles to your birthday cake.
Compared to other states, Arkansans don’t do so well when it comes to staying active, ranking at or near the top of national obesity, heart disease and diabetes lists. But that’s not for lack of amenities or opportunities to get up and get moving.
Every little bit helps, so put down the remote and check out the following list of activities to get started.
BREAK A SWEAT
Arkansas is chock-full of exercise options, some of which are as close as your front door. Walking your neighborhood, especially if there’s a little elevation change, can be a great, low-impact workout for older adults. Need something a little more structured? Check out the Aging & Active Programs offered by Little Rock Parks and Recreation. The program features a variety of activities including a walking club, health screenings and exercise activities for chair-bound, older adults, all for just $1.50 per month. Check it out at Stephens, West Central, Dunbar, East Little Rock and Southwest community centers. (littlerock.gov/media/5136/aging-active-programs.pdf)
SEE THE SIGHTS
Central Arkansas is blessed with one of the best trails systems anywhere that not only gives cyclists the opportunity to raise their heart rate but to take in some lovely scenery as they do so. Three particularly scenic locations include the Big Dam Bridge (bigdambridge.org), Burns Park (nlrpr.org) and Two Rivers Park (pulaskicounty.net/two-rivers-park), overlooking the scenic Arkansas River. If those spots seem too far or feel too daunting, just hop on anywhere along the Arkansas River Trail (arkansasrivertrail.org), the 15.6-mile loop that stretches all the way to the River Market. Want to ride with someone? Check out bikearkansas.com for a list of clubs near you.
A NATURAL STATE OF MIND
With lakes, rivers, trails and campgrounds seemingly around every bend, it doesn’t take much to understand why they call Arkansas the “Natural State.” From the majestic Pinnacle Mountain to the shores of Lake Maumelle, there’s something to suit every outdoor taste. Arkansas’ state parks (arkansasstateparks.com) are among the few in the country that don’t charge admission, so there’s little excuse not to get out and see the fall colors from your campground; enjoy some spring foliage along a hike or try your luck casting from the bank or from a boat. Another great outdoor activity is the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s family fishing program featuring free fishing derbies around the state. These events are specifically designed to get youngsters into fishing, so take your grandchild and spend a lazy afternoon reconnecting. (www.agfc.com/en/fishing/where-fish/family-and-community)
The foods you eat have a tremendous impact on your overall health. In fact, athletic trainers will tell you maintaining a healthy weight has far more to do with what you put on your plate than how much you sweat at the gym. It can be difficult to make the right eating choices, especially for seniors on a fixed income. The Arkansas Department of Health offers a number of free resources to help you make sense of your diet. Check out MyPlate, an online tool that helps you learn how to eat a balanced meal, and SuperTracker, which helps you keep track of both your intake and your exercise. (www.healthy.arkansas.gov)
Working out is more fun when you do it with a group. Many gyms and public workout facilities offer fitness classes specifically tailored for seniors allowing you to work out at your own pace and make friends while you do it. Check out CareLink Fitness & Wellness Center (www.carelink.org), offering a variety of exercise classes and wellness programs for active older adults. Maumelle Center on the Lake (maumelle.org/199/Senior-Wellness) provides a range of programming that allows seniors to age in place through wellness, exercise and other activities. Live out in the country? Check out Extension Get Fit, a statewide exercise program for seniors offered through the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service. To find a class near you search the calendar of events at www.uaex.edu/health-living/health/fitness/extension-get-fit.aspx.