Why be active? The reasons are endless!
Given the high cost of health care and the challenges of recovering from health conditions, physical activity is an easy, available, and affordable way to improve the quality of your life. Even just a little exercise can make a big difference in how you feel. More energy, stronger bones, better memory, and keeping weight off are just a few of the benefits of becoming and staying active.
Easing into a program of physical activity—with some thought and medical advice—can make a big difference in your life, usually will improve your life, and just may add years to your life. People of all ages, even those who have miles to go in their efforts to be fit and regain energy, have amazed themselves with the regenerating powers of the human body.
If you work at a fitness or activity program in small increments that you can manage, your body, lungs, heart, and muscles will respond. Sometimes even small weight losses, such as 10 pounds for someone who is overweight, will make people feel lighter, breathe easier, and be more comfortable in their clothes.
Our bodies are the vehicles that move us around every day, but we can't trade them in like we would a car. We can, though, maintain or improve our physical condition. All we have to do is start, stay with it, set a few manageable goals along the way, and have a little faith. It is never too late to be active!
Big reasons to be active
- Activity can slow the aging process. Activity helps build strength and stamina.
- You may live independently longer, have more strength, find it easier to do housework, climb stairs, and carry groceries. Better mobility helps you function in your own home.
- Activity helps prevent falls. Stronger bones and muscles create better posture, better balance, and less risk of falling. Broken hips and other injuries from falls make it difficult to live on your own.
- Activity helps prevent and manage illness, lowers the chance of developing some cancers, and lowers the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure.
- Activity helps you feel better; reduces stress, anxiety, and depression; and will improve your energy. It may even help you sleep better.
- Your memory may improve, and activity may help lower the risk of some types of dementia.
- Arthritis may be more manageable. Exercise can lessen arthritis pain and reduce stiffness. It can relieve other aches and pains, including low-back pain.
- It will be easier to maintain a healthful weight. Staying active keeps weight off and helps prevent aches, pains, injuries, and illness.
Your health care provider can help. Talk with your doctor before exercising, especially if you have not exercised for a long time, have a history of heart disease or another health condition, or have osteoporosis.
It's never too late to get active. Try walking, dancing, swimming, or gardening. Seated exercises are a great option for people with limited mobility. Start with five to 10 minutes at a time; every bit counts. Work up to 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days, or about 2.5 hours a week. Add strength-building activities twice a week.
Abridged from "Physical Activity and Older Adults: 10 Reasons to Be Active," a Journeyworks Publishing brochure for older adults and caregivers, written by Cathy Dakkuri.
Introduction expanded by Ed Schulte, aging information specialist with the Johnson County Area Agency on Aging.
A variety of health promotion and educational brochures are available at www.journeyworks.com.