Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Older Adults and Physical Activity

Physical activity is any body movement that uses energy, including daily activities such as house or yard work and walking. Regular physical activity helps keep the heart, lungs, bones, muscles, and joints healthy. 

It also helps improve energy level and self-esteem, decrease stress, manage weight, increase strength and flexibility, control arthritis pain, prevent or delay some diseases, such as heart disease and osteoporosis, improve balance and decrease the risk of falling. Being active can help you improve your quality of life and stay independent longer.

Aim for at least 30 minutes of a moderate-intensity endurance activity most days of the week. Moderate-intensity activity should increase your breathing and heart rate. Try walking, yard work, or vacuuming.

Plan to do some strength exercises like lifting weights or using resistance bands 2 or 3 times a week. With stronger muscles, you'll be able to do more things on your own. You don't need fancy weights; use books or cans!

Include balance exercises. Try standing on one leg and then the other, using a chair for balance; practice this three days a week to help prevent falls. Tai chi also helps with balance.

Include gentle stretches to be more flexible and give you more freedom of movement. Never stretch so far that it hurts. Gentle yoga also can help improve flexibility.

Remember the goal is to get at least 30 minutes of activity during the day. It doesn't have to be all at once. Work in the garden in the morning. Mop your floor while watching TV. Take a short walk after dinner. Choose activities that you enjoy and invite a friend along. Vary your activities and routines—try a different walking path.

Set realistic short- and long-term goals. Reward yourself when you reach them! Keep an activity log so you can look back and see how far you've come. Find an exercise partner!

Physical activity actually increases your energy level. Be active for five minutes and if you're tired after that time, stop. But chances are you'll feel like continuing!

Many people find that once they start being active, it feels so good that it becomes fun and enjoyable! But if physical activity sounds overwhelming, don’t despair—if you haven’t been active, start slowly and increase your activity gradually. Remember, doing something is better than doing nothing!

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