Staying physically active important for older adults

An elderly African American woman poses for a portrait after her workout

Physical activity is good for your health at any age. If you have never been active, starting regular physical activity now may improve your endurance, strength, balance and flexibility. Being active may help you live on your own for a longer time and keep you healthy.

Being active can be hard if your mobility is limited or if you have serious health problems. But you can find activities to meet your needs. Slowly raising your arms or legs, for example, may help you when done on a regular, repeated basis.

Healthy older adults should do four types of activities regularly: 1) aerobic (or endurance) exercise, 2) activities to strengthen muscles, 3) improve balance and 4) increase flexibility. Physical activity doesn’t have to be strenuous to achieve health benefits.

Here are some additional tips:

WHERE TO BEGIN

  • Older adults should consult with a physician before beginning a new physical activity program.
  • Older adults can obtain significant health benefits with a moderate amount of physical activity, preferably daily. A moderate amount of activity can be obtained in longer sessions of moderately intense activities (such as walking) or in shorter sessions of more vigorous activities (such as fast-walking or stair-walking).
  • Because risk of injury increases at high levels of physical activity, care should be taken not to engage in excessive amounts of activity.
  • Previously sedentary older adults who begin physical activity programs should start with short intervals of moderate physical activity (5-10 minutes) and gradually build up to the desired amount.
  • ·  In addition to cardiorespiratory endurance (aerobic) activity, older adults can benefit from muscle-strengthening activities. Stronger muscles help reduce the risk of falling and fracturing bones and improve the ability to perform the routine tasks of daily life.

BENEFITS OF BEING ACTIVE      

  • Reduces the risk of dying from coronary heart disease and of developing high blood pressure, colon cancer and diabetes.
  • Can help reduce blood pressure in some people with hypertension.
  • Reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression and fosters improvements in mood and feelings of well-being.
  • Helps maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints.
  • Helps control joint swelling and pain associated with arthritis.

WHAT COMMUNITIES CAN DO

  • Provide community-based physical activity programs that offer aerobic, strengthening, and flexibility components specifically designed for older adults.
  • Encourage malls and other indoor or protected locations to provide safe places for walking in any weather.
  • Ensure that facilities for physical activity accommodate and encourage participation by older adults.
  • Provide transportation for older adults to parks or facilities that provide physical activity programs.

Sources: CDC, National Institutes of Health