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Want to get healthier? Get moving!

This interview originally aired on In the Moment on SDPB Radio.

Kelly Evans-Hullinger, M.D., joins us for our weekly conversation with the On Call with the Prairie Doc® team. We explore the benefits and barriers to exercise and how it can become a routine.

It can be as simple as starting a walk.

Dr. Evans-Hullinger is an On Call® physician and internal medicine practitioner in Brookings.

Prairie Doc Perspective Week of September 24th, 2023
“Exercise for healthier aging”
Kelly Evans-Hullinger, M.D.

We all know that exercise is great for our overall health. Exercise is important for our cardiovascular health of course, which is why the American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise every week. No less importantly, and especially as we get older, another huge benefit of exercise is in fall and injury prevention.

Starting an exercise routine, especially when starting from scratch, can be daunting. The simplest way to get started is to start a timed walking routine. Start with 15 minutes per day. If you can’t walk outdoors or on a treadmill, find a long hallway or a large indoor space like a store or mall and just walk. If you are consistent, you will find that week by week you will be able to increase your time ideally up to 30 minutes a day or more. If you have a friend or family member who shares the same goal, a walking partner will increase your odds of success.

If you have a condition or disability that keeps you from walking, alternatives abound. Some people are much more able to use a stationary bike, or exercise in a pool. Chair exercise or upper body only routines can be found online; use the same principles, starting at 15 minutes and increasing the time gradually.

Already got walking or your alternative down? You can increase the intensity by exercising more briskly or adding some hills or resistance to your routine. And better yet, you can add some strength training to maintain and build muscle. No fancy equipment needed – start with some squats from a sturdy chair; try a 30 second plank. Adding some variety to your routine is great to keep things interesting and reduce any risk of overuse injury.

There are some great ways to work on exercise in a group if your community has access. Many communities have free group chair exercise or walking groups that you can try out. If able, try a yoga, Pilates or tai chi class. That pesky friend who keeps inviting you to play pickleball – say “why not” and give it a go! Probably the most important thing to help you be consistent with exercise is to find activities that you actually enjoy doing, so don’t be afraid to try something new!

Our exercise abilities and goals might change as we get older, but the benefits of moving our bodies are present at all ages. So get out there and move! You’ll be glad you did.

Cara Hetland is the Director of Radio and Journalism Content for South Dakota Public Broadcasting.
Ellen Koester is a producer of In the Moment, SDPB's daily news and culture broadcast.
Ari Jungemann is a producer of In the Moment, SDPB's daily news and culture broadcast.