The Importance of Being Physically Active for Older Adults

“Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.” – PlatoIt is well known that physical activity can bring significant health benefits to people of all ages and abilities. It can extend the years of active independent living, reduce disability, improve your mental health and increase socialism, and improve your quality of life to name a few. Conversely, physical Inactivity or living a sedentary lifestyle can be detrimental to your health. A sedentary lifestyle has been compared to being as hazardous to your health as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. It leads to declines in bone and muscle strength, declines in heart and lung function, and reduces flexibility which is essential to living independently. While it would be of the greatest benefit to encompass a physically active lifestyle from an early age in life, it is never too late to start being physically active and reaping some of the benefits that go along with it.Being physically active and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can even reduce the number of medications one may be prescribed to take, or eliminate them altogether. This is both a physical and economic benefit to living a healthy and active lifestyle. Exercise and socialism increase the secretion of endorphins, which are “feel good” hormones naturally produced in the body, which will boost your mood and energy levels, allowing one to feel happy and ambitious. Physical activity and healthy eating are also two key components to weight loss and weight management. Maintaining a health BMI (body mass index) will allow you to live independently longer, and continue to do all of the things you like to do on a daily basis with less pain, without mobility aids, or with fewer modifications.Physical activity strengthens all of the working muscles in your body. These are not just the muscles we think of when we see Popeye eating spinach and his bicep muscles in his arms start bulging! They also include the muscles of your heart and vital organs which circulate blood throughout our bodies, delivering oxygen to working muscle groups and removing toxins from our bodies. Physical activity can reduce the risk of disease and/or disability, reducing the number of hospital visits/stays, and increases time spent with family and friends. Physical activity improves your flexibility which will allow you to bend and lift and reach pain free and with ease. It will allow you to play with your grandchildren, work in your garden, button up your shirt, put on and tie your shoes, maintain personal hygiene, and more. Being physically active, increasing your cardiovascular endurance, and increasing muscle strength and flexibility all play a major role in improving balance and agility which are extremely important in older adult populations. Older adults are at a higher risk of falling so having a strong base of support and working on improving balance are essential for maintaining your health and wellbeing. Slips, trips, and falls are one of the number one causes of hospitalizations in older adults. Older adults with low or decreasing bone density are at an increased risk of fractures and complications from something as simple as falling, and in some cases, it can become fatal.It is important that everyone, of all ages, put their health and wellbeing as a main priority in their life. The earlier we start to implement this mentality and incorporate physical activity and nutrition into our daily lives, the greater benefit we will see, especially long term, but it is never too late to start!The guidelines for physical activity for older adults in Canada are not unrealistic. All you need to do is incorporate 2.5 hours of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each week in 10 minute intervals or more. That averages to be only 20-30 minutes per day! Add in two or more days that include some muscle and bone strengthening exercises and you have met the Public Health Canada guidelines! It is as simple as that.If you are not normally physically active, but want to take the first steps incorporating physical activity and exercise into your routine, remember to start slow. It is not a race and everyone has different abilities and interests. Find exercises or activities that are of interest to you to help keep you engaged and consistent. Listen to your body and know your limits. The old adage of “No Pain – No Gain” is not realistic or beneficial and can increase your risk of injury or reduce adherence. Every step counts, so be proud of what you have accomplished and celebrate the little victories along with the bigger ones!For more information on the Physical Activity Guidelines for Older Adults (65+), please visit: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/healthy-living/physical-activity-tips-older-adults-65-years-older.htmlFor some ideas on exercises aimed at improving strength and balance for older adults, please visit: https://www.lifeline.ca/en/resources/14-exercises-for-seniors-to-improve-strength-and-balance/

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