Smiling young African American woman in sportswear doing pushups during an exercise class with a group of friends at the gym

Despite the many benefits of moderate physical activity, 31 million Americans (28 percent) age 50 years and older are inactive – that is, they are not physically active beyond the basic movements needed for daily life activities. This finding comes from a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Researchers analyzed data to examine patterns of inactivity among adults ages 50 and older by selected characteristics.  The analysis showed:

• Inactivity was higher for women (29.4 percent) compared with men (25.5 percent).

  • The percentage of inactivity by race and ethnicity varied: Blacks (33.1 percent), Hispanics (32.7 percent), non-Hispanic whites (26.2 percent), and other groups (27.1 percent).
  • Inactivity significantly increased with age: 25.4 percent for adults 50-64, 26.9 percent for people 65-74 years, and 35.3 percent for people 75 years and older.
  • More adults with at least one chronic disease were inactive (31.9 percent) compared with adults with no chronic disease (19.2 percent).
  •  Inactivity was highest in the South (30.1 percent), followed by the Midwest (28.4 percent).

Physical activity reduces the risk of premature death and can delay or prevent many chronic diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia and some cancers. Being physically active helps older adults maintain the ability to live independently and reduces the risk of falling and fracturing bones.

Active older adults also have a reduced risk of moderate or severe limitations and are less likely to suffer from falls.

Here is some advice on exercising from the American Heart Association.

1. Work with your health care provider or a fitness professional to develop an activity plan to consider chronic conditions, activity limitations and reducing risk of falls.

2. Focus more on increasing moderate activity and give less emphasis to attaining high levels of activity which have a risk of injury and lower adherence.

3. Pick activities that are fun, suit your needs and that you can do year-round.  Find a companion to exercise with you if it will help you stay on a regular schedule and add to your enjoyment.

4. If you decide that walking is a great activity for you, choose a place that has a smooth, soft surface, that does not intersect with traffic, and that’s well-lighted and safe. Many people walk at shopping malls.

5. Because muscular adaptation and elasticity generally slows with age, take more time to warm up and cool down while exercising. Make sure you stretch slowly.

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