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Healthy Aging - Physical Vitality

Physical activity builds physical vitality. With every year of your life, you have more to gain from being physically active.

What are the benefits of being physically active?

On a daily basis, being physically active improves your quality of life by improving your:

  • Energy level.
  • Mental sharpness.
  • Mood (regular aerobic exercise can help manage depression, anxiety, and stress).
  • Balance, strength, and flexibility, which are key to preventing injuries and falls.
  • Odds against chronic illness. Physical activity also often helps manage chronic illness with fewer medicines.

As you get older, an inactive lifestyle increases your risk of chronic disease. Conversely, getting regular aerobic exercise is one of your best defenses against diseases, such as:

If you already have a chronic disease, becoming physically active may reduce your need for medicine to treat or control it.

I'm not physically active right now—how do I start?

If you've been inactive for awhile, you don't necessarily have to set your sights on becoming athletic—your first goal is to simply start moving more each day. Before you do, though, get off to a smart start by seeing your doctor for a full physical examination. Then you can follow his or her recommendations as well as these guidelines for becoming more physically active.

  • Add more movement to your daily routine. For example, put away the TV remote control, park farther from building entrances or at the opposite side of the parking lot from where you're going, and take stairs instead of elevators. Walk a lap or two around your house or apartment, then down the street or around a nearby park. Buy a pedometer and gradually increase the number of steps you take each day.
  • Start with small, short-term goals. It's easiest to keep doing something new when you have early, frequent successes. For example, make a plan to walk for 10 minutes a day, 3 days a week, for 2 weeks.
  • Buddy up with a friend. There's no better way to stay on track with physical activity than with a buddy you look forward to seeing, who also counts on you (especially on days when you could easily find an excuse not to be physically active).
  • Change the way you think about yourself—start thinking, dressing, and eating like the active, vital person you plan to be.
  • Make physical fitness a habit with such simple tasks as writing physical activity into your weekly calendar.
actionset.gif Fitness: Making It a Habit
Quick Tips: Getting Active at Home
Quick Tips: Having Enough Energy to Stay Active
actionset.gif Fitness: Walking for Wellness
actionset.gif Fitness: Using a Pedometer or Step Counter

After a few weeks of regular physical activity, you will probably feel better than before. When you're ready for more, add some variety to your activity schedule with new ways to build flexibility, aerobic fitness, and muscle strength. Experts say to do either of these things to get and stay healthy:1

  • Moderate activity for at least 2½ hours a week. One way to do this is to be active 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week. Moderate activity means things like brisk walking, brisk cycling, or ballroom dancing. But any activities—including daily chores—that raise your heart rate can be included. You notice your heart beating faster with this kind of activity.
  • Vigorous activity for at least 1¼ hours a week. One way to do this is to be active 25 minutes a day, at least 3 days a week. Vigorous activity means things like jogging, cycling fast, or cross-country skiing. You breathe rapidly and your heart beats much faster with this kind of activity.
1|2|3

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 28, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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