Resolve to succeed

Suzanne M. Gray, owner and trainer at Right Fit in Willowbrook, works with a client.

James Egizio took up running in his 40s, but by his early 60s knee pain convinced him to switch to walking for fitness.

James, now 70, continues to walk- a brisk mile to a mile and a half three days a week with his wife Mary Ann.

At the dawn of a new year it is difficult to escape the barrage of fitness information.

But, for those over age 50 serious about making changes the advice is basic.

"You have to start out slow and gradually build up," James says.

Carol Teteak, fitness coordinator and personal trainer at Edward Health and Fitness Center at Seven Bridges, says "it can be overwhelming, but it doesn't need to be that hard or that complicated. It doesn't matter when you start. You can reap the benefits and can reach these goals, but it's going to take work."

Expert advice

James has an added benefit to his commitment to stay in shape — Teteak is his daughter and she convinced her parents, who live in Darien, to join the fitness center about five years ago.

But for those who don't have a personal trainer already in their lives, Teteak suggests starting with a visit to a physician.

A doctor can give everyone a starting point including a weight, body mass index and even do blood work to check cholesterol and blood sugar levels. In addition, Teteak says, doctors can help make recommendations or point out any important limitations.

Suzanne M. Gray, owner and trainer at Right Fit in Willowbrook, says some facilities require a health release be signed or a health questionnaire be filled out. Once clearance is given, Teteak says it is important to set goals to determine a course of action.

For older adults, she says, the goal may not be weight loss or achieving fitness, but to be able to move without pain, keep up with grandchildren or continue to live independently.

Gray teaches Sensible Fitness for Older Adults, a class for those with dementia or Alzheimer's and their caregivers, at Aging Care Connections in La Grange. She believes it is important to have someone with experience with an older population — not necessarily someone focused on getting abs tighter, but on personal goals such as maintaining independence.

Getting started

Regardless of age or limitations, Teteak says she values the recommendations by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

The categories include cardio to challenge the heart and get blood flowing, resistance or strength exercises to built muscle and flexibility, which means being able to move through a range of motion.

In 2011 the ACSM added neuromotor exercise guideline. This includes functional training and motor skills such as gait and balance.

"When you think about agility, coordination and power you think of athletes, but even as you age you still need to be agile," Teteak says adding it is necessary to right yourself when off balance and power has to be generated for any muscular contraction — such as getting out of bed.

For anyone just starting to exercise or getting back to it, any type of activity beyond the norm will offer results, Teteak says.