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Dates to remember

Sept. 17: Coffee Time — Nutrition Facts about Coffee, Morton Mandan Public Library, 7 p.m.

Sept. 20: Morton County Fair Board meeting, New Salem 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 4: Stepping On fall prevention seven-week series, 1-3 p.m.

Oct. 9: Annie’s Project, Flasher

With fall just around the corner, many of us are settling into a new routine, so now is a perfect time to consider how to include physical activity in this schedule.

Exercise and physical activity are good for everyone, including older adults. For some, getting older seems to involve a loss of strength, energy and vigor. But this does not need to be the case.

The frailty and decreased energy we associate with aging, such as difficulty climbing stairs, walking long distances or doing household chores, are largely due to muscle loss. Age-related muscle loss, called sarcopenia, is a natural part of aging. After age 30, we begin to lose as much as 3 to 5 percent per decade. Most men will lose about 30 percent of their muscle mass during their lifetimes.

One of the best ways for keeping muscles strong is through exercise called strength training. Research has shown that strength training is one of the best ways to combat the frailty and weakness that can come with age.

When done on a regular basis, strength training can build bone and muscle, and help with maintaining strength, independence and energy. These exercises are effective and safe for people of all ages, including those who are in less than perfect health. In fact, individuals with specific health concerns, such as heart disease and arthritis, may benefit the most from an exercise program that includes lifting weights each week.

Studies have shown that strength training can help manage and sometimes prevent conditions as varied as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and osteoporosis. When combined with regular aerobic exercise, strength training can have a major effect on a person’s mental and emotional health.

Research also shows that people who exercise regularly sleep better. In addition, strength training exercises can reduce depression and boost self-confidence and self-esteem, and improve one’s sense of well-being.

Whatever your motivations for staying strong and fit, figuring out what to do and where to start can be challenging, especially if you are inactive. One useful website to visit is Go4Life (www.nia.nih.gov/Go4Life), a national exercise and physical activity campaign for people 50 and older from the National Institute on Aging. The institute is part of the U.S. Department of Health.

This interactive website offers exercises, success stories and free materials to motivate the growing numbers of baby boomers and their parents to get ready, start exercising and keep going to improve their health and achieve a better quality of life.

Falling also is a risk associated with muscle loss and poor balance. September is National Falls Prevention Month, and older adults are encouraged to educate themselves about ways to reduce their risk of falls.

Stepping on, a fall prevention program offered by North Dakota State University Extension, empowers older adults to adopt healthy behaviors that reduce the risk of falls. Older adults learn balance and strength exercises, and develop specific knowledge and skills to prevent falls. A Stepping On series will begin Oct. 4 and will meet for seven consecutive Thursdays. Contact the Morton County office of NDSU Extension at 701-667-3340 for more information and to register for the class.

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Vanessa Hoines is an extension agent with NDSU Extension/Morton County. She holds a bachelor’s degree in family and consumer science education and food and nutrition and a master’s degree in child development and family science.

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