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The Importance of Exercise and Physical Activity as We Age
It’s well known that exercise and physical activity benefit people of all ages, but their importance increases with age.
Regular exercise and physical activity can help you to:
- Maintain or improve physical strength and fitness;
- Continue to do daily activities that are important to you, such as driving, shopping, carrying groceries, and playing with grandchildren;
- Have better balance and prevent falls and fractures;
- Manage and improve diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis;
- Keep muscles and joints in shape, keep a healthy weight, and have regular toilet/sleep habits.
- Support emotional health by helping to reduce feelings of depression and stress, and lift your mood and overall sense of well-being.
The truth is that almost anyone, regardless of age or health condition, can safely do some kind of exercise or physical activity. The trick is to start slowly, be conscious of any limitations, be creative and find some activities that are enjoyable. Studies continue to report on the benefits of just 10 minutes of activity at a time. Here are some suggestions if you have physical limitations:
- Take a walk each day, outside if possible. You may only be able to go to the mailbox or around the block. You may need the assistance of a caregiver, a cane, or a walker. If you can’t get outside, walk inside your residence.
- Turn on your favorite music and dance….or sway, or just move. Even someone confined to a wheelchair or walker can enjoy some movement to music.
- Find some videos/DVDs or TV programs that help older adults exercise. Some are designed for sitting in a chair.
- If you have trouble with balance or walking, you might be able to dust or sweep, set the table, help with meal preparation or fold laundry. (All are more fun with music.)
- If you have access to a pool, water exercises are especially beneficial and kind to your body. If you can visit a gym, try a recumbent bike and light weights. If not, canned vegetables make a great substitute for weights. Soft exercise balls, bands, and balloons can be used for stretching.
- Other activities can include light gardening (inside or outside) and short outings (with the ability to sit and rest).
In all cases, use common sense. Break exercises into simple, easy-to-follow steps. Wear comfortable clothes and suitable shoes. Don’t try to do too much at a time but do exercise regularly. Drink water before, during, and after. And remember, any amount of exercise is better than none at all!
More information about exercise and physical activity for older adults is available at the National Institute on Aging’s website.
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