Originally Published: December 11, 2010 10 p.m.
After several heart and knee surgeries in recent years, Al Dattola, 79, a semi-retired physical education teacher at Prescott High School, could have slowed down his pace.
But after going through physical rehabilitation after each surgery, Dattola, who coached football and track, said he gradually worked his way back to his standard daily workout of 30 minutes on the bicycle, 30 minutes on the treadmill, 30 minutes lifting weights, and walking with his wife, Dawn, up to for four miles a day.
"I love working out and being fit," said Dattola, who taught physical fitness to special-needs children and adults in the Prescott Unified School District for many years. "If I miss a day of exercising, I feel guilty, and it bothers me."
Studies have shown that exercise can improve the health of all people, especially those who are frail or who have diseases that accompany aging, according to the National Institutes of Health's senior health website at nihseniorhealth.gov/exerciseforolderadults/benefitsofexercise/01.html.
Some older adults are afraid exercise will harm them, but studies show when older people lose their ability to do things on their own, it's not because they've aged but rather because they're not active.
To get all of the benefits of physical activity, seniors are encouraged to do endurance, strength, balance and flexibility exercises.
Endurance exercises, such as walking, swimming or dancing, increase your heart rate and breathing for an extended period of time. Start with 5 minutes and build up to at least 30 minutes each day.
Strength exercises, such as wrist curls, back leg raises and chair dips, build muscle, and small improvements can make a real difference when carrying groceries or rising from a chair.
Balance exercises, such as walking heel to toe, standing on one foot and side leg raises may help prevent falls by improving the ability to control and maintain your body's position.
Finally, flexibility exercises, such as calf stretches and shoulder and upper arm raises, increase range of motion, which helps when getting dressed and reaching objects on a shelf.
Many local seniors take part in physical activities at the Prescott Adult Center and exercise at the Prescott YMCA and the Yavapai Regional Medical Center's Pendleton Centers in both Prescott and Prescott Valley, where seniors can enroll in a general fitness program, including core and balance training that helps them build up strength and reduce the risk of falls.
Dattola encourages all people and especially older adults to get active.
"You don't need any special equipment to exercise - just getting out and walking is one of the best ways to keep in shape," Dattola said.
Dattola said he and his wife, Dawn, enjoy walking so much and helping causes that, through the years, they have participated in and raised money for the Memory Walk for the Alzheimer's Association and for the American Diabetes Association's Step Out: Walk to Fight Diabetes.
Dattola said using 2- to 3-pound hand weights can help people build up arm strength gradually.
Dattola also suggested letting a trainer show you the correct way to perform an exercise to get the most out of it and avoid pain or injury from using improper technique.
"Age is just a number if you envision what you want to do and stay in shape," Dattola said.