Getting Fit For Life

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

But why do you need to move? And what's the best way to do it?

Why Exercise Matters

There are many reasons you should stay physically active, especially if you want to live a long life.

It can help:

  • Keep your bones, muscles, and joints healthy
  • Lower your chances of things like diabetes, colon cancer, and osteoporosis
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Manage stress and improve your mood
  • Ease symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Lower your risk of heart disease
  • Manage chronic conditions like arthritis or diabetes, by improving symptoms like stamina, joint swelling, pain, and muscle strength
  • With balance, so you're less likely to fall and fracture bones

 

How Much Exercise?

Sometimes as you get older, you may be a bit fearful of exercise. Maybe you think you might hurt yourself. You may believe you have to join a gym. Or you may not be sure what exercises you should do.

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

Healthy adults should shoot for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity, aerobic activity every week. Sure, you can do that in exercise classes. But 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. Also try to do flexibility exercises 2 or 3 days a week 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.

Feeling really motivated? You'll get even more health benefits if you work up to 300 minutes or more of exercise a week.

But 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.

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How to Get Moving

There are two ways to move: 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.

Always check with your doctor before increasing your activity level.

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

To get in motion in a less formal way, you can:

  • 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

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 the key to a longer, happier life.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on October 25, 2016

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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