Exercising is a lifelong necessity but our bodies have various needs, plus challenges, as we age. Here is what to look out for:
-Pre-teens: Lifelong habits are programmed at this stage so proper nutrition is paramount. Provide smart food choices for children. Lay off the white bread and white rice (opt for multigrain breads and brown rice). Watch the fast foods, the high fat and sugar overload treats. Snacks are fine; but make sure vegetables and fruit are plentiful.
-Adolescence: Teens should start building their bones to reduce the chance of osteoporosis later on. Start adding weight training in this period, along with cardiovascular work. Find an organized sport at school you enjoy and partake. The discipline and energy expenditure will set you up for the years to come.
Smoking and drugs are taboo.
-20s: Carry a bag of unsalted almonds or raw vegetables to snack on between classes.
Watch the alcohol intake at happy hour.
Women should begin regular pap smear tests if sexually active.
Watch the tendency to overdo exercise at one time.
''Most of the people I see in their early 20s and 30s have injuries,'' says family medicine doctor Robert Schwartz. ``They haven't played much sports but have gone out and played tennis and now have a knee injury or some other type of sports injury. They weren't exercising on a regular basis or failed to do the appropriate warmup and stretching.''
-30s: The family years. Pregnant women who exercise regularly, and throughout their term, have an easier time carrying the baby, shorter labors, and regain their figures more rapidly.
Add folate to the diet - found in some cereals and leafy green vegetables.
Make time to schedule 150 minutes of exercise a week - that's just 30 minutes each weekday. Playing with the kids burns calories.
-40s-50s: Women's hormones begin to change due to menopause. Calcium intake, for both men and women, becomes even more important to combat osteoporosis. Get a bone density test.
Schedule a colonoscopy after 40. The test is no big deal; it's the purging the night before people find most unpleasant. If all's well, you only have to take the test every five years.
-60s-100s: Don't stop now, you've made it this far. Do what you can. If agility, arthritis or muscle fatigue becomes an issue, consider gentler activities: swimming or exercising in the pool. Tai chi. Regular walking.
(c) 2004, The Miami Herald. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.