Getting Fit for Life

It's important to keep moving, no matter how old you are. Exercise keeps your body and your brain healthy.

Why do you need to move? What's the best way to do it?

Why Exercise Matters

There are many reasons you should stay physically active.

It can help:

  • Keep your bones, muscles, and joints healthy
  • Cut your chances of things like diabetes, colon cancer, and osteoporosis
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Manage stress and improve mood
  • Ease symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Lower your odds of having heart disease
  • Improve stamina
  • Ease joint swelling and pain
  • Build muscle strength
  • Make you less likely to fall and fracture bones

 

How Much Exercise?

As you get older, you may fear exercise. Maybe you think you might hurt yourself. You may believe you have to join a gym. You might not be sure which exercises you should do.

The key isn't how or where you get active. It's just to start moving.

Healthy adults should try to get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity, aerobic activity each week. Sure, you can do that in exercise classes. You can also get it by brisk walking. It's also important to do movements that work all your major muscles at least 2 days a week. Try to do flexibility exercises 2 or 3 days a week, too, to improve your range of motion.

Though 150 minutes sounds like a lot, you don't have to get it in big chunks. You can take a 10-minute walk around the block or spend 10 minutes sweeping the porch. It all adds up.

A simple goal is to try to get 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on most days. You may be able to do that on some weeks and not others. Remember, it's a goal and not a rule. Do what works for you.

How to Get Moving

There are two ways to get more active: exercise and physical activity.

Exercise is planned activity like aerobics classes, tai chi, spin classes, or swimming.

Physical activity is the way you "sneak" movement into your day, like walking the dog or gardening.

Adding both to your routine will help you stay healthy and live longer.

Ready to move? Go to the gym or community center and take water aerobics or dance classes and do strength training exercises.

You can also:

  • Take a brisk walk or jog
  • Ride a bike
  • Rake leaves or push a lawn mower
  • Sweep or dust
  • Play tennis
  • Walk up and down stairs
  • Carry groceries

Talk with your doctor before starting an exercise routine.

You don't need fancy clothes or equipment to start. Just get moving. You should start to feel stronger and have more energy in just a few weeks. That's a key to a longer, happier life.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on July 06, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

American Council on Science and Health: "Exercise Helps Keep Aging Brain In Shape."

CDC: "Exercise and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General, Older Adults," "How much physical activity do adults need?"

NIH Senior Health: "Exercise: Benefits of Exercise," "Exercise: How to Get Started."

Harvard Medical School: "Exercise and Aging: Can you walk away from Father Time?"

National Institute on Aging: "Exercise & Physical Activity: Your Everyday Guide from the National Institute on Aging."

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