Why is Physical Activity Such a Big Deal
Regular exercise and physical activity are important to the physical and mental health of almost everyone, including older adults. Being physically active can help you continue to do the things you enjoy and stay independent as you age. Regular physical activity over long periods of time can produce long-term health benefits. That’s why health experts say that older adults should be active every day to maintain their health.
In addition, regular exercise and physical activity can reduce the risk of developing some diseases and disabilities that develop as people grow older. In some cases, exercise is an effective treatment for many chronic conditions. For example, studies show that people with arthritis, heart disease, or diabetes benefit from regular exercise. Exercise also helps people with high blood pressure, balance problems, or difficulty walking.
One of the great things about physical activity is that there are so many ways to be active. For example, you can be active in short spurts throughout the day, or you can set aside specific times of the day on specific days of the week to exercise. Many physical activities—such as brisk walking, raking leaves, or taking the stairs whenever you can—are free or low cost and do not require special equipment. You could also check out an exercise video from the library or use the fitness center at a local senior center.
There are many types of exercise and physical activity. Choose ways to help you be active in ways that suit your lifestyle, interests, health, and budget, whether you’re just starting out, getting back to exercising after a break, or fit enough to run a 3-mile race. Exercise IS for everyone—people who are healthy and those who live with an ongoing health problem or disability.
Many different exercises can improve your health and independence. Whether you do the exercises mentioned below or other physical activities that accomplish the same goals, gradually work your way up to include endurance, strength, balance, and stretching exercises.
It’s important to spend about 5 minutes at the beginning and end of your routine to warm up and cool down. Warming up and cooling down give your muscles a chance to get ready to work and gradually return to rest at the end. These “before-and-after” activities help prevent injury and reduce muscle soreness later. Here are a few suggestions:
- Do some light endurance activity first, such as walking for 5 minutes. If you’re going to be walking briskly or running, gradually build up to that pace. At the end of your activity, gradually slow down and let your body cool down.
- Do a few exercises to work the muscles and joints you’ll be using in your activity. For example, if you’re going to be swimming, do a few arm exercises first to warm up your arms and shoulders.
- If you’re going to include stretching exercises as part of your routine, do them afterwards.
Physical activity is a great way to have fun, be with friends and family, enjoy the outdoors, improve your fitness for your favorite sport, and maintain your independence. Older adults also gain substantial health benefits from regular physical activity, and these benefits last even into old age. The best way to be physically active is to make it a lifelong habit. Once you get started, keep going.
Often, people decide to become more active and follow a healthy eating plan because they want to control their weight. For many people, these healthy habits do result in weight loss, but that’s only part of the big picture. Healthy eating and physical activity help you become physically fit and stay healthy.
Think about other lifestyle changes you can make, too. For example, smoking leads to a variety of serious diseases and can keep you from being active. So does drinking too much alcohol. Together, habits like physical activity, a healthful diet, drinking in moderation, and not smoking will help you achieve the main goal: the best of health.
Choose and use exercise and physical activity goals that work for you. And, remember, Keep Going!