Physical Exercise and Aging

Staying fit is a lifelong journey, but as we age, it can be more difficult to reach the same exercise goals than it once was. Aging causes more than just wrinkles—it can also cause losses in balance, muscle mass and overall strength, agility, and bone density, while also triggering weight gain. Because of this, people who have stayed fit their whole lives may struggle with these changes, while people who have been inactive often find themselves unable to enjoy the activities they once did, or experience major health problems. The good news? Engaging in regular exercise can improve health and even help seniors live longer. Just 3 hours of exercise per week can increase overall lifespan by about 5 years!

In 2010, there were 40.3 million Americans age 65 or older, and this number is growing every year, making education about the importance of physical fitness in maintaining quality of life very important. Of those seniors, just 28-34% of adults aged 65-74 were physically active, and 35-44% of adults over the age of 75 were active. Since 4 out of 5 Americans over the age of 50 have one or more chronic conditions, an active lifestyle can be a key factor in managing health.

So what are the benefits of staying active as you age? Better mobility, strength, and balance, weight maintenance, and better health overall. Exercise can help people manage chronic conditions and lower blood pressure, and can even help to build up brain volume!

Check out this awesome infographic from USC’s Gerontology Department to understand aging and exercise in a visual way:

The University of Southern California Online

Seniors don’t necessarily need to become runners or do yoga to stay fit (although many choose to!). If you’re getting older, and wondering how you can incorporate activity into your daily routine, here are a few suggestions:

  • Set goals with your doctor for your physical fitness. Discuss your plans with them to make sure what you’re planning is safe for you.
  • Make a daily walk part of your routine.
  • Take a class geared toward seniors at your local gym.
  • Choose the more active option when you can—take the stairs, park near the back of the parking lot, and rake the leaves instead of using a leaf blower.
  • If you have grandchildren, try doing something active instead of watching TV or playing a board game.

Staying fit as you age doesn’t have to be difficult, but it does require commitment. Keep on moving and spend your golden years happy and healthy!

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