Physical activity is essential to healthy aging. As an older adult, regular
physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your
health, as it can prevent many of the health problems that come with age.
It also helps increase your energy and muscle strength so you can maintain
a good quality of life and enjoy day-to-day activities without becoming
dependent on others.
Benefits of Physical Activity:
- Increases muscle strength. Studies have showed that muscle strength can
be increase from 50-100% by doing physical activity, leading to better
function and fewer falls.
- Improves blood circulation. The normal aging process brings decreased blood
circulation to organs including the heart, liver, kidney, and brain. Physical
activity can combat this part of the aging process.
- Sharpens memory. A recent study showed that the brain’s memory center,
the hippocampus, grows bigger with physical activity, which both prevents
and treats dementia.
- Improves mood by allowing better sleep and release of endorphins (the happy
- Increases bone density. Our bone density peaks at age 30, then gradually
decreases, especially in women after menopause. Physical activity places
pressure on bones and can increase bone density. If you do your activities
outside, vitamin D can be produced by your skin from sunshine. Vitamin
D helps with the absorption of calcium to make bones stronger.
- Modifies lipids. Decreasing bad cholesterol (LDL and triglycerides) and
increasing good cholesterol (HDL) protects against stroke and heart attack.
- Lowers blood sugar and normalizes blood pressure.
- Improves appearance. Physical activity firms the body, trims fat, and can
boost metabolism by as much as 15%, which helps with weight control.
- Promotes social opportunities. Exercising with friends or family gives
you a chance to visit and chat while you work out.
What Kind of Physical Activity Can I Do?
If you're 65 years of age or older and have no limiting health conditions,
you can do any activity that you enjoy. For example:
Golf (walking instead of using the cart)
Housework, especially sweeping, mopping, vacuuming
Yard work, especially mowing and raking
How Much Physical Activity Should I Do?
Start low and go slow. Gradually increase the duration and intensity of
your activity to reach a goal of 40 minutes, 4 times a week, and 10 minutes
of increased heart rate per session.
What If I Have a Chronic Condition?
If you have a health condition such as arthritis, emphysema, or heart
disease, it doesn't mean you can't be active. In fact, it's
just the opposite. Regular physical activity can improve your quality of life!
Talk with your doctor to find out if your health condition limits your
ability to be active. Then, work with your doctor to come up with a plan
that matches your abilities.
What If I Have a Disability?
If you are an older adult with a disability, regular physical activity
can provide mental health benefits and improve your ability to do everyday
tasks. Seek advice from a professional with experience in physical activity
and disabilities. They can tell you more about the amounts and types of
physical activity that are appropriate for you.