Posted on April 15, 2019
Exercise and Physical Activity: Getting Fit for Life
Exercise is good for just about everyone, including older adults. Even moderate amounts of physical activity can have a big impact. Talk with your doctor first, of course. And if you’ve been inactive, take it easy as you get started, say, 5-10 minutes of moderate activity each day. Exercise is an important part of living a healthy life, and it really just makes you feel good! Some of the benefits daily, regular exercise can provide include:
- Keeping and improving your strength so you can stay independent
- Having more energy to do the things you want to do
- Improving your balance and flexibility
- Preventing or delaying some diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis
- Perking up your mood and helping reduce depression
Almost anyone, at any age, can do some type of physical activity. You can still exercise even if you have a health condition like heart disease or diabetes. In fact, physical activity may help your body fight these kinds of diseases. And you don’t need to buy special clothes or belong to a gym to become more active, because you can and should incorporate physical activity into your everyday life activities. Find things you like to do such as going for brisk walks, riding a bike, dancing, working around the house, gardening, climbing stairs, swimming, or raking leaves. Try different kinds of activities that keep you moving, and look for new ways to build physical activity into your daily routine.
But, to reiterate, please be sure to check with your doctor if you are over 50 and you aren’t currently physically active before you start any kind of physical fitness program. Other reasons to check with your doctor before you exercise include:
- Any new symptom you haven’t discussed with your doctor
- Dizziness or shortness of breath
- Chest pain or pressure or the feeling that your heart is skipping, racing, or fluttering
- Evidence of blood clots
- Fever with muscle aches
- Unplanned weight loss
- Foot or ankle problems
- Joint swelling
- Recent surgery
As you incorporate physical activity into your routine, it is a good idea to work on keeping your body flexible because as you age, your muscles naturally lose strength and size and can become less supple and stiffer. This can affect the range of movement around your joints, which may lead to their stiffness. It is this loss of tissue elasticity that can cause muscles and joints to tighten up, possibly leading to injury.
Because like most things, flexibility decreases with age, it is very important to include flexibility exercises in your daily workout regimen. In addition, a balanced diet, full of fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meats, is crucial to maintaining flexibility. And, if recommended by your physician, incorporating a nutritional supplement that supports joint health and mobility improvement can help maintain muscle flexibility as well.
Exercises that promote flexibility are in a group of four cornerstone movements (along with those that improve endurance, strength, and balance) that you should probably work on. That stiffness can be alleviated with, for example, stretching exercises that target hips, legs, shoulders, your neck, your back … anywhere. Yoga can help, too. Be sure to take it easy, though, and never stretch so far that it hurts.
Staying mentally sharp as you age may have more to do with working out than working on mental fitness games! Studies have also shown that physical fitness not only helps with your aging body, but with your aging mind as well. People who stay physically active as they age often tend to have larger brains than those who have avoided doing any exercise at all over the years.
The brain typically shrinks in late adulthood, and this shrinkage is believed to play a role in age-related memory decline. This newer research is the latest to suggest that exercise is good for the brain as well as the body. “It is pretty clear that exercise is one of the most potent things we can do to protect our brains as we age,” says University of Pittsburgh exercise and aging researcher Kirk Erickson, PhD, who was not involved with the study.
To learn more about the benefits physical activity can have on your health as you age, contact your CCHC provider at 252.514.4111 today.
(sources: www.nia.nih.gov, www.webmd.com, www.verywellfit.com)