It’s natural to slow down as you age, but it’s crucial not to get sidelined. Whether you are 75 or 95, regular physical activity is the best thing you can do to slow the symptoms of aging and manage the effects of chronic conditions.
Studies have shown that staying active as you age can:
- Boost your mood and sense of well-being
- Strengthen your muscles and bones (lowering the risk of falls and fractures)
- Improve your digestive health
- Increase your immune function, making it easier to fight off infection and recover from disease
Just a bit of regular exercise each day will help you continue doing your day-to-day activities.
It may seem daunting to start exercising now, but keep this in mind: Even a small increase in your activity level will bring benefits. However, if you have a heart condition, arthritis, or diabetes, talk with your doctor before you start a new exercise regimen.
As you think about starting (or increasing) your exercise, aim for activities that fall in the following four areas.
Aerobic and endurance exercise involves activities that speed up your breath and get your heart rate elevated, such as walking, cycling, or swimming. Aim for about 30 minutes each day. And it’s fine to break the 30 minutes up into three 10-minute chunks, spread over the course of the day.
All kinds of activities count here. The key is to get you breathing harder and your heart beating faster. If severe weather makes it dangerous or uncomfortable to be outside, consider walking inside your local mall.
Muscle-strengthening exercise involves activities that strengthen all of your major muscle groups: legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms. Strength training is crucial for preventing the loss of bone mass and improving your balance. You should do things to strengthen your muscles at least twice a week and aim for one or two sets of 10 to 15 repetitions for each major muscle group.
You can work out at a local YMCA/gym or at home, using walls, the floor, and furniture to provide resistance. The swimming pool also provides a safe and convenient place for resistance training; consider signing up for a class in water aerobics.
Flexibility exercises help stretch your muscles and keep your body limber so you can keep up your regular activities. Each day do calf, shoulder and upper arm, and lower back stretches. (For illustrated instructions on suitable stretching exercises, visit the National Institute on Aging website.) Or sign up for a yoga class at your local senior center.
Balance exercises are crucial for helping you prevent falls. Many older adults enjoy boosting their balance through Tai Chi classes, a martial art developed in China. But there are also simple exercises you can do at home, including the heel-to-toe walk or standing on one foot.
Keep It Simple and Make It Enjoyable
You’ll be more apt to stick with an exercise program that is easy to pursue and fun to do. Pick activities you enjoy, and try to mix things up to reduce the risk of injury and avoid getting bored and giving up. Remember: Even small increases in activity will bring benefits.
To learn more about healthy lifestyle habits to develop as you age, click here.