canned excuses
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Can the Excuses: Just Get Moving!

You can come up with a million reasons for not being physically active. Some might even be valid. But know this: Stillness is bad. Roughly 3.2 million people die each year because of physical inactivity. Regular exercise, especially among older adults, is critical to good health.

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mature couple holding hands
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I’m Just Too Old

Exercise is good for just about everyone, including older adults. Even moderate amounts of physical activity can have a big impact. Talk with your doctor first, of course. If you’ve been inactive, take it easy as you get started, say, 5-10 minutes of moderate activity each day.

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mature woman on couch
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I Just Need to Take It Easy

It’s not your age that has you feeling the need to rest -- it’s that you’re not moving. Even older adults with serious health problems -- heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and others -- can live better lives by getting up and moving.

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I Don’t Think My Heart Can Take It

The more you do to stay active as you age, the lower your chances are for things like heart attack and stroke. Your doctor can tell you what type of exercises are best, and for how long you should do them. You’ll probably shoot for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week, like a brisk walk or an easy bike ride. Mowing the lawn or a heavy cleaning session counts, too. And you don’t have to do them in 30-minute chunks.

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mature woman doing yoga
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I Don’t Move Like I Used To

Exercises that promote flexibility are in a group of four cornerstone movements (along with those that improve endurance, strength, and balance) that you should probably work on. That stiffness can be alleviated with, for example, stretching exercises that target hips, legs, shoulders, your neck, your back … anywhere. Yoga can help, too. Take it easy, though, and don’t stretch so far that it hurts.

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man talking with doctor
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I’m Afraid of Hurting Myself

To be safe, check with your doctor first, especially if you’ve been inactive or have health problems. Your doctor knows what you need and what you can do. Experts say those just starting out should begin slowly with low-intensity exercises. Drink plenty of water, listen to your body, warm up before your workout, and cool down after it.

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mature woman on stationary bike
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I Am What I Am

A recent study suggests that certain exercises -- like riding a stationary bicycle -- actually slow cell decline that can happen as you age. In other words, it’s never too late to reap the benefits of exercise. No matter how old you are, how inactive, or how out of shape you have been for however long, exercise can be provide lots of help for lots of things.

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I Don’t Like Exercise

Being physically active doesn’t necessarily mean pushing around big weights at the gym or going for a 10-mile run. Do things that you enjoy and that will keep you at it. You could work in the yard, walk with friends, work in the garden (lifting and bending are great for flexibility and strength), or take a bike ride. Mix things up every so often, too, so you don’t get bored.

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mature women exercising
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I Don’t Have an Exercise Buddy

Having a partner or getting into a group helps. Studies show that supervision and support can help you stay focused and feel good about what you’re doing. Buddies can really help if you’ve been inactive for a while and you’re cranking things back up. Some people do prefer to go solo. If you’re not one, find a group in your community. You can find one online, or your doctor can help you.

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I Don’t Have the Time

A full schedule -- because of babysitting the grandkids, other family obligations, housework, etc. -- often is cited as a reason to skip exercise. When you think about all the benefits of regular physical activity, and the minimum time required (150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity), the answer is clear: If you want to stay healthy, you can find the time.

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body illustration
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My Heart’s Fine

It’s not just about your heart. Regular exercise also helps your lungs, muscles, and your entire circulatory system. It’s about benefits that can include lower blood pressure, better bone and joint health, and less chance of things like colon cancer and diabetes.

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mature couple working out
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I Don’t Want to Fall

Falling can be a problem for older adults. But with regular physical activity, including exercises that promote proper balance -- exercises that you can do almost anytime, anywhere -- you can help prevent the falls that hurt so many older adults. Your doctor can point you in the right direction.

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brain activity
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I Worry More About My Brain

Exercise is great for your brain. Experts say not only can exercise help you stave off mental health issues like depression and anxiety, it can also help you stay on task and be better able to move from one to-do item to the next. Healthy body, healthy mind.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 01/20/2021 Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on January 20, 2021


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World Health Organization: “Physical Inactivity: A Global Public Health Problem.”

CDC: “Physical Activity and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General.”

National Institute on Aging: “How Exercise Can Help You.”

National Institute on Aging: “Exercising with Chronic Conditions: Heart Disease, Diabetes, Arthritis, and Osteoporosis.”

Postgraduate Medical Journal: “Physical activity is medicine for older adults.”

American College of Cardiology: “Regular Exercise Prevents Heart Disease in Elderly Adults.”

American Heart Association: “American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids.”

National Institute on Aging: “Overcoming Barriers to Exercise: No More Excuses.”

National Institute on Aging: “Exercise and Physical Activity: Getting Fit for Life.”

National Institute on Aging: “Flexibility.”

National Institute on Aging: “Yoga and Older Adults.”

National Institute on Aging: “How to Stay Safe During Exercise and Physical Activity.”

Cell Metabolism: “Enhanced Protein Translation Underlies Improved Metabolic and Physical Adaptations to Different Exercise Training Modes in Young and Old Humans.”

The New York Times: “The Best Exercise for Aging Muscles.”

Frontiers in Endocrinology (Lausanne): “Aging Hallmarks: The Benefits of Physical Exercise.”

National Institute on Aging: “Activities for All Seasons: Fun Ideas for Being Active All Year.”

The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association: “Effects of Group Fitness Classes on Stress and Quality of Life of Medical Students.”

BMC Geriatrics: “Regular group exercise contributes to balanced health in older adults in Japan: a qualitative study.”

Journal of Physical Activity & Health: “Predicting adherence of adults to a 12-month exercise intervention.”

Gerontology & Geriatric Medicine: “Barriers, Motivations, and Preferences for Physical Activity Among Female African American Older Adults.”

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (second edition).”

National Institute on Aging: “Balance.”

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: “Older Adult Health Facts.”

National Institute on Aging: “Feel Down? Get Up! Emotional Benefits of Exercise.”

Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on January 20, 2021

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.