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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Physical Activity as You Get Older - Topic Overview

Being active can make life better

Many people become less active as they age, but staying active—or getting active, if you aren't already—has definite benefits.

  • Aerobic exercise strengthens your heart—which improves your health—and gives you more energy to do the things you like to do. It can also increase the amount of sleep you get at night and may reduce the time it takes for you to fall asleep. Water exercise may be a good choice for some older adults.
  • Strengthening exercises can help you maintain your muscle, strengthen bones, and protect knees and other joints. These exercises include resistance training, such as lifting weights.
  • Flexibility and stretchingwhich help provide a full range of motion for muscles and joints—can help you function at home, at work, and socially. Everyday tasks that are hard for you, such as tying shoelaces or reaching to a shelf, may become easier. When you stay flexible, you also keep a more natural walking pattern and decrease your chance of falling. Most flexibility that seems to be lost through aging is caused not by aging but by inactivity or lack of movement.
  • Balance exercises help you have good posture. They can also be helpful to improve coordination and reduce your risk for falls. One type of balance exercise is to stand on one leg for 10 seconds. Stand on a flat surface and use a stable object (such as a heavy chair) for support. Yoga classes or DVDs can teach you poses that help improve your balance.

Being active can keep you healthy

Exercise also has these specific health benefits for older adults. It:1

Physical activity doesn't have to be strenuous. Older adults can gain great health benefits with a moderate amount of physical activity. This can be done in longer sessions of moderately intense activities (such as walking) or in shorter sessions of more vigorous activities (such as fast walking or stair-walking).

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