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Physical Activity Needs of Seniors

Posted by Chris Neumann on

Regardless of your age, it’s never too late to add activity to your life. Not only can physical activity help you live longer, but it may also prolong your health, mental acuity and independence to help you enjoy a better quality of life. Inactivity is linked to a higher risk of heart disease, stroke and the many disabilities they can cause. In addition, lack of activity may increase your risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, certain types of cancer and obesity.
Like adults of any age, older adults should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week. Moderate activities include brisk walking and riding a bike. Vigorous intensity activities include cross-country skiing and swimming. Doing 10 minutes at a time that add up to 150 minutes or more during the week works, too. In addition, older adults should add muscle and bone-strengthening activities using major muscle groups at least 2 days per week. Those over 65 with poor mobility should perform physical activities to enhance balance and prevent falls.
Choose activities that you enjoy, that way you’re more likely to stick with it. If the gym isn’t your style, head for a walking trail, do some gardening, work on your golf game or join a yoga class. If weather is a barrier to outdoor activity, climb stairs in your home, join a mall-walking group or stroll the halls of your apartment building or retirement residence. Get active your way: at home, in your community, with friends, and going to and from activities such as walking to meetings, church events, and dinner parties in your neighborhood.
Activities that offer a variety of endurance, strength-building and flexibility benefits are your best bet.
 Endurance activities include walking, hiking, swimming, dancing, cycling and skating. These are especially good for your heart, lungs and circulatory system.
 Flexibility activities include stretching, yoga, Tai Chi, yard work and vacuuming. These keep joints limber. Increased flexibility will allow you to continue to tie your shoes, reach the top shelf in your kitchen and clip your toenails.
 Strength activities include lifting weights or soup cans, climbing stairs, doing push-ups against a wall in a standing position, or sitting down and standing up in rapid succession repeatedly. These will strengthen your muscles and improve balance, which will help to prevent falls, the leading cause of death from injury in people over 65. Never think you’re too old to strengthen your body: studies have found that weight training can reverse muscle weakness even among people in their 90s.
Almost everyone can benefit from active living. If you have arthritis or osteoporosis, physical activity is extremely important to keep you mobile. If you’ve already had a heart attack, becoming active may help to prevent another one.
NOTE: Always check with your healthcare provider before beginning any physical activity program.

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