Contributed by Ira “Sam” Manalo, PT, DPT
YES! Believe it or not, physical activity is the fountain of youth. Research supports that you can improve your physical function well into older adulthood and physical activity helps fight cognitive decline.
Many people over a certain age believe that they are too old to exercise. That is a misconception and you are missing out on significant health benefits by not exercising. Approximately 33% of males and 50% of females over the age of 75 don’t exercise at all. Regular physical activity can benefit your physical, mental, and social health, and prevent or improve many chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, and some cancers.
Aging causes natural declines in strength and flexibility, which can make physical activity a challenge. Physical activity doesn’t have to be strenuous for you to feel the beneficial effects. It can be as small as taking a short walk around the neighborhood or yard. You can exercise at a moderate intensity (walking) for a moderately long period of time or you can be a bit more ambitious and exercise at a higher intensity (speed walking) for a shorter period of time.
If you’ve been inactive or are new to exercise, don’t be afraid to start small. Try walking 5-10 minutes and see how you feel. Over time, your endurance and strength will build and you will be able to increase the duration. The key is a gradual progression of exercise intensity and duration so your body has time to adjust.
Here are the key benefits of physical activity in older adults:
- Increased muscle strength to help prevent falls and maintain your level of independence
- Research shows that regular physical activity reduces the risk of dying from coronary diseases as well as helps manage blood pressure
- Exercises reduces chronic pain and fatigue (especially with conditions like fibromyalgia)
- Resistance and weight bearing exercises build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints
With that said, finding an activity you enjoy doing will help you stick with it in the long run. The most popular activities for adults over 65 are walking and gardening!
If you feel it is not safe for you to exercise, that’s where physical therapy can help! We are happy to help you initiate a safe exercise routine and address any other aches and pains.