Healthy Aging: Know the Facts

By John Sandgren, MD
John Sandgren is a recent Evolve grad and a member of the Vital Aging Network’s Wellness 50+ Design Team. We are pleased to have his contribution to our knowledge base about how to age well.

Jan 252015

This is the first of a series of  installments entitled: Fitting Exercise into Your Daily Routine


We’ve all heard people say they don’t have time to exercise but I would suggest that for many if not all of those people, time may not be the problem; it may be focus. Time management is always helpful, of course, but in the long run, focus combined with enthusiasm and resourcefulness is more apt to win out. The only time-management skill you absolutely must have is avoiding life in continuous crisis mode. Some suggestions:

  • Take stock of your many commitments and the customary pace of your day.
  • Manage or distribute these commitments to prevent crises.
  • Allow adequate time for nutrition and sleep.
  • Don’t fret over perceived lack of time.

Part 6 of the series just finished, Think of Exercise as a Pill That Promotes Long Life and a Whole Lot More, suggested you spell out an exercise program that identifies “every type of activity to be done, the level of effort at which it will be done, and the duration of that effort.” For those of you who are busy, try relaxing this strict scheduling as outlined in the bullet points below.

Create Achievable Goals

It’s probably safe to assume goal-setting will assist us adults with exercise performance; after all, goal-setting does appear to benefit school athletes and professional athletes.[1] As discussed in Part 5 of Exercise as a Pill, the best goals are realistic, specific and incremental.

  • Top Priority: Move frequently during the day. Get up out of your chair every 30 minutes if possible. (The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says sitting down for long periods of time can lead to diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and other health problems even for people who are active at other times of the day.)2
  • Pressed for time? Set goals that specify several different times in the day when you will exercise, but as you begin, don’t worry too much about the durations of those exercises.

Exercise Several Times Each Day

Moving frequently during the day is important because recent research suggests physical inactivity allows noxious chemicals like free radicals to build up in muscles, and this might be a significant cause of muscle aging.[3] So why not fit exercise into several parts of your day?

  • While brushing your teeth in the morning, warm up some muscles, for example by doing side bends, hip swivels, or body twists. Perhaps try standing on one leg and then the other, or alternating between standing on your tip toes and rocking back on your heels. (Use your free hand to hang onto the sink, if needed.)
  • As you sit during the day, do chair exercises. (More on this next week.)
  • In the evening as you wash dishes or watch TV or talk on the phone, devise some additional exercises.

The point here is that focusing on exercise will help get you started. Focus is the key. In Exercise as a Pill, you learned the importance of exercise. Now you will actually begin to exercise, and frequently, provided you maintain mindfulness of it throughout your day!

Watch for Part 2 of this series next week, “Your Chair or Office as Fitness Studio.”

John SandgrenJohn Sandgren is a recent Evolve grad and a member of the Vital Aging Network’s Wellness 50+ Design Team. We are pleased to have his contribution to our knowledge base about how to age well. Thanks to Marcia Robert, MPH, for editorial assistance on this article.




1 Martin G, Thompson K, Regehr K. Studies using Single-Subject Designs in Sport Psychology: 30 Years of Research. The Behavior Analyst. 2004; 27:263.

[2] Weight-control Information Network, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Tips to Help You Get Active. Go to and click on “fitness” in the search box.  Under “Recommended NIH Resources” in the middle of the page, scroll down and click on “Weight-control Information Network.” Now, on the left-hand side, click on Publications • For the Public. Finally, scroll down the list of Publications – For the Public and click on “Tips to Help You Get Active.”

[3] Venturelli M, Morgan GR, Donato AJ, et al. Cellular Aging of Skeletal Muscle: Telomeric and Free Radical Evidence that Physical Inactivity is Responsible and not Age. Clin Sci [Lond] (Clinical Science [London]). 2014; 127:415.