Charlene Casey, who lost 74 pounds since November when she began working out and eating a strict diet, tries on an old pair of pants at her home in Carson on Friday, August 3, 2012.

Charlene Casey, who lost 74 pounds since November when she began working out and eating a strict diet, tries on an old pair of pants at her home in Carson on Friday, August 3, 2012. (Christina House, For the Los Angeles Times)

Making it social

Casey found success by doing precisely what Kohl recommends: She made it social.

"Never underestimate the power of social support," Kohl told me. "It's critical." The more of a situation you can create where people rely on you to be there, or will at least give you some grief if you don't show, the better.

"Walk down the block. Walk the dog. Walk with a group," Kohl said. "Look for ways to build activity into your day: Take the stairs; park farther away from your destination; get off one bus stop earlier … " (He suggests people suffering from joint issues consider cycling.)

And if you ended up feeling more spry because you're logging so many miles, there's no reason you can't start running. There are plenty of octogenarian marathoners out there. Last year a centenarian finished a marathon in Toronto.

And try tacking some resistance training on to your workouts.

In 2009, researchers from Indiana University and Boston University compiled information from 121 trials comprising 6,700 participants and found that progressive resistance training — where an effort is made to get stronger — results in dramatic quality of life improvements. Published by the Cochrane Library, the study found it made a variety of daily tasks, such as carrying groceries, bathing, getting out of a chair and climbing stairs became much easier.

Using stair climbing for exercise counts as resistance training, Kohl says, because you're pulling your body weight upward.

Because you likely don't want to become a bodybuilder, lifting weights doesn't have to be fancy or expensive. Simple and small equipment can make for a home gym — just like Casey did. The Cochrane review suggested working with a health professional or exercise specialist, and so do I.

Try to find someone with a degree in exercise physiology to come to your home and teach you to use simple equipment. It probably won't take more than a few sessions. For those with health concerns, the American College of Sports Medicine has some specialized certifications for people with certain conditions, so look for that.

If you've got a spouse or a friend to lift with, make it a team effort. Not only can you save money, but you'll be more motivated as well.

Just remember: It is very possible that you are not yet in the best shape of your life. So start finding time to spend on yourself and reap the rewards.

Fell is a certified strength and conditioning specialist.