Physical activity essential to healthy aging

Tuesday, September 25, 2012
People older than 65 need muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups on two or more days a week. (Stock image)

Regular physical activity is one of the most important things older adults can do for their health. It can lower the risk for many health problems that may come with getting older. In addition to helping hearts stay healthy, being physically active can help preserve muscle strength so people can continue their day-to-day activities without becoming dependent on others. Engaging in physical activity significantly reduces the risk for a potentially disabling injury, such as a broken hip.

Those who are 65 or older, are generally fit and have no limiting health conditions should be able to follow these guidelines. However, no matter your health status, check in with your health care provider before increasing your activity level.

* Two hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms). OR

* One hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., jogging or running) every week and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms). OR

* An equivalent mix of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).

Older adults at risk of falling should do exercises that maintain or improve their balance. For best results, they should do these exercises at least three days a week, using exercises specifically shown to reduce falls.

This week is Active Aging Week. Active Aging is "living as fully as possible within the dimensions of wellness (physical, spiritual, cognitive/intellectual, social, emotional, environmental, professional/vocational).

Physical activity and individual interests and preferences

When it comes to getting the physical activity you need each week, it's important to pick activities you enjoy and that match your abilities. This will help ensure that you continue to do them and derive the maximum health benefit of being active. If you have a disability, please check with your health care provider before engaging in something new.

Try to do a variety of activities to make physical activity more enjoyable and reduce your risk of injury.

Regular physical activity can still be safe and beneficial even if you have problems doing normal daily activities, such as climbing stairs or walking.

If you have to take a break from your regular workout routine because of an illness such as the flu, be sure to start again at a lower level and slowly work back up to your usual level of activity.

To get to and stay at a healthy weight, start by doing the equivalent of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. Keep in mind that you may need to do more activity or reduce the number of calories you eat to get to your desired weight.

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