We have repeatedly heard the mantra that we must exercise to ensure good health as we age. But, what does this mean? What should we do, and how often should we do it? The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association recently published specific guidelines for older adults (believe it or not, that includes the Boomers!).

Based on their expertise, these are the recommendations (keep in mind that these are minimums):

Aerobic Exercise: Do thirty minutes/five days a week if the activity is moderate; twenty minutes/three times a week if the activity is vigorous. Activities include walking, swimming, jogging, and biking. Of course, a combination of moderate/vigorous activity can be used. Moderate activity should produce a noticeable increase in breathing and heart rate; vigorous activity produces large increases in breathing and heart rate. Based on an individual\’s fitness level, a moderate activity for one person may be a vigorous activity for another. This aerobic exercise recommendation is in addition to regular everyday activities, such as shopping, cooking, or walking from a parking lot to an office.

Muscle-Strengthening: Do two or three times a week on non-consecutive days. Engage all major muscle groups using 8 – 10 different exercises. Shoot for 10 – 15 repetitions per muscle group – muscles should feel fatigue. Exercises can include free weights, bands, weight machines, sit-ups, push-ups, and pull-ups.

Balance and Flexibility: Spend at least ten minutes a day maintaining/improving balance and flexibility to help reduce falls and ensure that you can continue to carry out daily routines. Activities include Yoga, Qigong, Pilates, and Tai Chi.

If you haven\’t been exercising regularly, get the green light from your physician before starting. Then, sign up with a personal trainer, join a health club or the “Y,”, or buy some of the excellent DVDs out there and work out in your home to start/keep you on the path to independence.

Jan Cullinane is the co-author of The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life (Rodale, 2007). She gives seminars on the (primarily) non-financial aspects of retirement through her company, "Retirement Living from A to Z."