(HealthDay News) — The U.S. National Institute on Aging suggests performing endurance exercises as you age. This type of exercise benefits your cardiovascular system, lungs and circulatory system. Examples include walking, jogging, swimming and biking. The agency offers these suggestions before starting an endurance exercise regimen: Warm up and cool down before and after exercise. Drink plenty of fluids when doing any activity that makes you sweat. Dress in layers when exercising outdoors, so you can remove a layer if you get too hot. If exercise equipment is involved, make sure it’s safe and well maintained. Walk during the day or in well-lit areas at night, and be aware of your surroundings.

You might be excited to begin an exercise program for better health, but for some people, getting a fitness assessment first is the right way to get started. As part of this exam you’ll learn about appropriate exercises and safety guidelines, such as workout duration and the intensity level best for you. During the assessment, key components of your fitness will be measured and your risk factors for heart disease and other health conditions will be evaluated. The findings will provide you your unique exercise road map and serve as a baseline from which to track your progress. A fitness assessment evaluates the following areas of conditioning: Cardiovascular fitness. Muscular strength. Muscular endurance. Flexibility. Balance. Who needs this type of assessment? The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a simple self-evaluation to help you decide. The more heart disease risk factors you have — like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, a family history of heart disease, a smoking habit, obesity, or pre-diabetes — the more important it is to check in with your doctor or another qualified health professional. If you already have heart, lung or kidney disease, asthma or arthritis, it’s essential to work hand-in-hand with your health-care provider to develop an exercise program for wellness. Talk to your doctor first if you answer yes to any of these seven questions: Do you…  read on >

The more college football referees know about concussion symptoms, the more confident they are in calling a timeout for a suspected head injury, a new study shows. Researchers surveyed more than 1,300 college football officials during the 2015 season and found that they called an average of one injury timeout for a suspected concussion every four games. Those with greater awareness about concussion symptoms were more confident in making such calls, according to the study published online recently in The Journal of Athletic Training. “Concussion education for officials is important,” said lead author Emily Kroshus, an assistant professor in University of Washington’s department of pediatrics. “When officials are more aware of concussion symptoms, they are more confident in calling injury timeouts,” Kroshus said in a journal news release. “Understanding the determinants of whether officials call an injury timeout when they suspect a concussion has important implications for the design of interventions that better support officials in this role,” she added. Study co-author John Parsons is managing director of the NCAA Sports Science Institute. “One way that officials can help ensure sports safety is to recognize potentially concussed athletes and call injury timeouts appropriately so that athletic trainers or other medical personnel can conduct evaluations,” he said. Said Kroshus: “When officials believe that coaches, athletic trainers, parents, fans, athletes and athletic administrators are equally committed to…  read on >

It’s common doctors’ advice to the elderly: Walk around the block each day to help stay fit. Trouble is, that advice might do more harm than good if you live in a neighborhood with smoggy air, a new study shows. British research suggests the unhealthy effects of breathing dirty air might outweigh whatever benefit the daily walk brings. “For many people, such as the elderly or those with chronic disease, the only exercise they very often can do is to walk,” noted lead researcher Dr. Kian Fan Chung, of the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London. But “our study suggests that we might advise these people to walk in green spaces, away from built-up areas and pollution from traffic,” Chung said in a news release from Duke University. “But for those living in inner cities, this may be difficult to do, and there may be a cost associated with it as they have to travel further away from where they live or work.” The study was conducted in London, but one U.S. expert in respiratory health said the findings probably hold true everywhere. “It is no surprise that traffic-polluted streets may negate the cardio-respiratory effects of walking in older adults,” said Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. He advises that “peak traffic times should…  read on >

Former professional football players are at increased risk for an enlarged aorta, which can lead to a life-threatening bulge in the artery, a new study reports. The aorta, the largest artery in the body, carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. The short part of the aorta is called the ascending aorta. It rises from the left ventricle — the bottom left chamber of the heart — and supplies the coronary arteries with blood. Enlargement of the ascending aorta, called dilation, can increase the chances of a bulge. The bulge is known as an aneurysm. An ascending aorta that is more than 4 centimeters (1.6 inches) in diameter is considered to be dilated. The study included 206 former National Football League players and a control group of 759 other men older than 40. Compared with the control group, the former pro football players had significantly larger ascending aortic diameters. Nearly 30 percent of the ex-NFL players had an aorta wider than 4 centimeters, compared with only 8.6 percent of men in the control group. Even after the researchers adjusted for age, body mass and heart risk factors, former NFL players were still twice as likely as the control group to have an aorta wider than 4 centimeters. The findings were to be presented Wednesday at the annual meeting of the Radiological…  read on >

Strength training needs to be part of every exercise plan, but you don’t have to join a health club to reap its benefits. You can create a state-of-the-art home gym, but an inexpensive approach will work just as well. First, pick out a 10-by-10-foot space where you can exercise without tripping over or bumping into anything. It doesn’t have to be a dedicated area as long as you can move any furniture out of the way when you’re ready to work out. Next, choose your equipment. The American College of Sports Medicine suggests starting with a few dumbbells or resistance bands plus a stability ball. If it’s in your budget, an adjustable bench adds variety to upper body workouts. Dumbbells are hand-held weights, available from 1 to 45 pounds each. Handle choice is key. You want some friction for a good grip, but also a comfortable feel. If buying a set, be sure there are weights you can lift now and weights you can work up to. If you’re short on storage space, try stretchy resistance bands. Bands come with different tensions appropriate for different muscle groups. Some are just lengths of material you wrap around your hands. Others have handles. Test both to see what you like best. It’s a good idea to have a trainer outline a home plan with exercises that target…  read on >