By Angelica Gavaldon

One of the most valuable lessons my father left me was the importance of exercising. The habit of moving daily is essential, not just while I was a professional athlete but throughout my life, especially the older I get.

I saw my father exercise everyday up until his last year. He passed away at 90. But even the disease had to fight hard to take exercise away from him. He made it to the gym everyday rain or shine without excuses. He rode his bike and lifted weights. When he got sick, his pace slowed but he did not stop. I saw him get weaker and it worried both my mom and me. We begged him to stay home and rest, but he responded “Mijita, el día que me veas acostado es porque ya no quiero vivir.” Translated: “My darling daughter, the day you see me lying down is the day I’ve stopped wanting to live.” I realized exercise is what gave my dad strength and independence. It was not just a mindset; it gave him the physical strength to be independent.

At 89 my dad fell many times when making a trip to the bathroom. He never broke a bone and never needed hip surgery! The miracle of my father getting back up and carrying on like nothing happened lies in the statistics that mark the gravity of falling for the elderly. More than one-third of people ages 65 or older fall each year. About one fall in 10 results in a serious injury, like a hip fracture. Roughly 20 percent of older people who suffer a hip fracture die within a year.

If you want his kind of “luck” the key is daily exercise, movement and weight training. A lot of the difficulties that come as we age are due to inactivity. Forget about appearances, huge muscles, or the idea of bodybuilders. Think about the basics of human function for greater quality of life: stability, mobility, balance, flexibility and posture.

Exercise for women is incredibly important, even more so as we age. Women who exercise regularly feel less symptoms of menopause than those who do not. They feel less joint pain, fewer hot flashes, and exercise lowers the risk of heart disease, diabetes and when strength training or resistance training is incorporated the risk of osteoporosis lowers as well.

If you have not been active for most of your life, do not stress! Just start. Start small. Start with a ten-minute walk around the block. Slowly add stretching, add more time, then add weight training. Go online and check out the many free workouts available. Find something that is interesting and fun for you, dance, yoga, anything that will keep you consistently coming back. Check with you doctor. The goal is to do cardio at least 20 minutes, three times a week and to weight train and stretch three times weekly as well. The older you get the more your body will thank you for it!