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Regular Physical Activity Benefits for Older Adults

Regular Physical Activity Benefits for Older Adults

​​​​​Being active is good for you at any age. Albertans over 65 years are at great risk of not getting enough physical activity. It’s important to stay active whether you’re 65, 75, or older.

Moderate to vigorous physical activity for 150 minutes every week is what current guidelines recommend. Physical activity can be broken down into 10 minute or longer stretches to reach this weekly goal. Regular physical activity will help you keep doing the things you enjoy and make it easier to try new ones. There are so many ways to be physically active—you can play with your grandchildren, volunteer, dance, canoe, hike, or walk.

What are the benefits of being physically active?

If you’re an older adult, regular physical activity:

  • is good for your health
  • helps you stay independent
  • can help prevent some types of health problems and diseases
  • helps relieve symptoms of some health problems and can slow down some types of chronic problems
  • helps make muscles stronger, increases flexibility, and improves balance, which can help prevent falls
  • can help you recover faster from surgery or an injury

For many people, activity is one of the best ways to manage symptoms of a medical problem or disease. For example, people who have arthritis can lower their pain level with gentle muscle and joint movements. Keeping your muscles strong also helps make your joints stronger and healthier.

Don’t most people slow down as they get older?

Many people believe that they should slow down as they get older. Research shows that people actually need to be more physically active as they get older to stay healthy and strong.

How do I get started?

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what activities to do. No matter how old you are it helps to choose activities that you enjoy and are interested in.

Make a short list of physical activities that might interest you. Remember, most activities can be adjusted to what you’re able to do.

If you can’t do some of your favourite activities, try something new. For example, if you can’t golf as often as you used to, join a fitness program with gentle stretching or exercises you can do at your own pace.

Try different activities in different seasons or choose ones that you can do all year.

How do I stay motivated?

Sticking to a physical activity routine is hard for many people. One of the best ways to stay motivated is to do activities with friends, like walking together a few times a week.

The time you spend being physically active can give you great returns, but it has to be a regular part of your daily or weekly life.

Here are a few tips to think about before you start something new.

  • Talk to your doctor about your choices and plans for activities.
  • When you start, go slow. Slowly increase the amount and intensity of your activity over time. As the activity gets easier, increase how long you do it and how hard you work. For example, on the first day, walk around the block 1 or 2 times and see how it feels. Each day, slowly build up the distance you walk until you find out what feels right for you.
  • Always challenge your body a little. This is how you’ll get stronger and keep your endurance and balance. Work towards being active most days of the week.
  • Set realistic goals for yourself. Write them down and put them in a place where you’ll see them every day. Congratulate yourself when you meet your goals.

How can I prevent a fall?

There are many reasons that older adults fall. Preventing this is important because injuries from a fall can be serious. The older you get, the longer it takes to recover. The more you sit, the greater the risk of falling. No matter how old you are, when you’re not active your body loses muscle strength, endurance, balance, and flexibility.

As you get older, your reaction time gets slower, you lose muscle tone, and your bones and joints aren’t as strong.

Regular activity can slow down the effects of aging and help prevent falls. You increase muscle tone and overall fitness. This helps you keep your balance when doing your daily activities.

To help prevent falls:

  • wear clothes that allow you to move freely
  • wear footwear with good support that’s comfortable
  • use a walking aid such as a walking stick or cane if you need to
  • go at a pace that’s right for you
  • drink water during the day to stay hydrated

If you’re walking, biking, or using a wheelchair or scooter, always go on a route that’s safe. Choose a route with a bench or somewhere you can stop and rest if you need to.

Current as of: October 24, 2018

Author: Chronic Disease Prevention, Alberta Health Services