Blog Post

Physical activity is important for healthy aging, but use caution

We’re taught from a young age about the importance of exercise and proper nutrition, yet levels of physical activity often decease with age.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 28% to 34% of adults 65 to 74 are physically active. The rate for those 75 and older is 35% to 44%. The good news is that health experts say we’re never too old to reap the benefits of physical
activity.

According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), most older adults can safely participate in daily physical activities, such as walking, dancing, swimming, gardening or riding a bike, without issue. However, those with unexplained symptoms and those living with chronic conditions should consult with their doctor before beginning a new physical activity program.

For those who are well enough to increase their level of physical activity, the NIA offers the following tips for exercising safely:

  • Start slowly. Allow your body to get used to performing physical activities and build up your level of activity over time, especially if you have been inactive for a prolonged period.
  • Use proper equipment. Find comfortable shoes for walking or jogging, and always use safety equipment, such as a helmet and pads when biking.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Unless a doctor has instructed you to limit fluids, be sure to drink plenty of water when physically active, even if you don’t feel thirsty.

Warm up. Before stretching your muscles, allow your body to warm up with some light walking or arm pumping.

  • The benefits of an active lifestyle are plentiful. Research has shown that regular physical activity for older adults:
  • Reduces the risk of falling
  • Reduces the risk of developing heart disease and other chronic conditions, including high blood pressure, colon cancer and diabetes
  • Reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Helps maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints
  • Improves stamina
  • Helps control joint swelling and pain associated with arthritis

For many of those looking to be more active, the hardest part may be getting started.

The NIA is celebrating Go4Life Month in September, which is designed to help older adults fit exercise and physical activity into daily life. The month-long campaign highlights exercises and activities specifically geared toward older adults and offers tips for getting active and staying motivated. For more information, visit go4life.nia.nih.gov.

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