Every May, the Administration for Community Living leads our nation’s observance of Older Americans Month. It’s a time to celebrate the countless contributions that older adults make to our communities. It’s also a time to be reminded about the importance of staying active as you age so that you can continue to invest your time, experience and talents for your family and neighbors every day.
We all know that exercise is good for everyone. Being regularly physically active is vital for healthy aging because it can lower your risk for, or help you manage, a variety of chronic health conditions, including heart disease, arthritis, Type 2 diabetes, cancer and stroke. It can also help reduce the risk of depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Another benefit of regular physical activity is that it can improve your mood as well as your strength and balance so you can prevent injuries and stay independent.
Even if you have a health concern or mobility issue, it’s still important to stay active. Talk to your doctor about the types and amounts of physical activity that are right for you. No matter your age or health condition, there are still plenty of ways to add more physical movement to your life:
Start small. Try to incorporate exercise into your everyday activities such as stretching while watching TV or parking just a little further away to get in some extra steps.
Balance is important. Start by holding onto the back of a sturdy chair. Practice lifting one foot and balancing on the other. The goal is to eventually be able to balance (without holding on) for one minute on each foot. Yoga and tai chi are also excellent for improving your balance.
Use what you have. No need for an expensive gym membership. You can strengthen your muscles by using hand weights, exercise bands and even cans of food or bottles of water as weights.
Just walk. If you are able, walking is one of the best ways to improve your fitness. Increasing the distance you walk every week or so will help you build up your energy and stamina over time.
Enjoy! The most important key to the success of physical activity is enjoyment. You don’t want to dread this part of your day so turn up the music while you walk. Or try a DVD or online exercise class. Before long, you’ll find you look forward to this time that you have carved out for yourself.
Stick to it! It takes about a month to create a habit. If you miss a day or two, don’t be too hard on yourself. Just start over when you can and build up to this new daily habit.
Being physically active can make a big difference in your quality of life by giving you more energy and enabling you to do simple things more easily. It’s never too late for exercise to have a positive effect, so why not start today?