“After walking on a treadmill at the local community center, I knew I'd be happier outside. So, I got a step counter and started walking in my neighborhood. Since then, I've seen yellow tulips bloom in spring and red dogwood leaves drop in fall. I always come home with more energy and happy to go on with the rest of the day.” Marian (age 77)
“Both my wife and I have heart problems. About 2 years ago, we joined our local health club, where we do both endurance and strength training exercises. On the off days, we walk near our house. It’s been life-saving for us.” Bob (age 78)
These older adults are living proof that exercise and physical activity are good for you, no matter how old you are. In fact, staying active can help you:
- Keep and improve your strength so you can stay independent.
- Have more energy to do the things you want to do.
- Improve your balance.
- Prevent or delay some diseases like heart disease, diabetes, breast and colon cancer, and osteoporosis.
- Perk up your mood and reduce depression.
You don’t need to buy special clothes or belong to a gym to become more active. Physical activity can and should be part of your everyday life. Find things you like to do. Go for brisk walks. Ride a bike. Dance. Work around the house. Garden. Climb stairs. Swim. Rake leaves. Try different kinds of activities that keep you moving. Look for new ways to build physical activity into your daily routine.
Four Ways to Be Active
To get all of the benefits of physical activity, try all four types of exercise – 1) endurance, 2) strength, 3) balance, and 4) flexibility.
- Try to build up to at least 30 minutes of activity that makes you breathe hard on most or all days of the week. Every day is best. That’s called an endurance activity because it builds your energy or “staying power.” You don’t have to be active for 30 minutes all at once. Ten minutes at a time is fine.
How hard do you need to push yourself? If you can talk without any trouble at all, you are not working hard enough. If you can’t talk at all, it’s too hard.
- Keep using your muscles. Strength exercises build muscles. When you have strong muscles, you can get up from a chair by yourself, you can lift your grandchildren, and you can walk through the park.
Keeping your muscles in shape helps prevent falls that cause problems like broken hips. You are less likely to fall when your leg and hip muscles are strong.
- Do things to help your balance. Try standing on one foot, then the other. If you can, don’t hold on to anything for support. Get up from a chair without using your hands or arms. Every now and then walk heel-to-toe. As you walk, put the heel of one foot just in front of the toes of your other foot. Your heel and toes should touch or almost touch.
- Stretch. Stretching can help you be more flexible. Moving more freely will make it easier for you to reach down to tie your shoes or look over your shoulder when you back the car out of your driveway. Stretch when your muscles are warmed up. Don’t stretch so far that it hurts.
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