5 Tips for Staying Physically Active as You Get Older

Many seniors give up exercise as they get older, most often out of concern for injury or due to changes in their physical abilities. Staying physically active as an older adult is more important than ever, whether you are generally healthy or coping with an ongoing health problem. Exercise helps you maintain your strength and agility, improves sleep, and helps reduce chronic pain. Exercise and good cardiovascular health also help prevent cognitive decline. No matter your age, regular physical activity can improve your balance, and help to manage and improve diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and obesity.

Exercise and physical activity are good for just about everyone, including older adults. There are many ways to stay physically active, like brisk walking or taking the stairs. Many swimming pools offer access to wheelchair users. Chair-bound people also can still lift light weights, and stretch to increase flexibility and maintain muscle tone. Exercise programs for wheelchair sports such as basketball are also available at many gyms and community centers. Here are five tips to get you started:

  1. Check with your doctor before starting. Find out if any health conditions or medications you take affect the type of exercise you should choose.
  2. Focus on aerobic and light, weight bearing exercises to improve stamina, energy and strength. Exercises that keep you moving and use large muscle groups improve pulmonary and cardiovascular health and lessen fatigue. Weight bearing exercise helps prevent loss of bone mass, builds muscle, and improves balance. Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous. Walking, swimming, stretching, and light weight lifting are great ways to stay active that are easily adjusted to changing capabilities. Start slowly and gradually build up as you can to avoid injury.
  3. Do something you enjoy whether it’s gardening, taking a class, walking in the park, dancing, fishing, or some other activity. Another strategy is to incorporate activities that you enjoy into an exercise routine. Play fetch or walk your dog or a neighbor’s. Listen to music while stretching or working out on equipment. Take up outdoor photography. Walk the golf course instead of using a cart.
  4. Exercise with a friend or in a group. Having an exercise partner or taking a class is a great way to stay motivated.
  5. Focus on short-term goals, such as improving your energy and flexibility or reducing stress. Even light exercise will help you feel less winded while working around the house, running errands, or playing with grandchildren. Basic stretches or yoga will improve flexibility and make common movements such as bending and turning easier.

NIH “Exercise and Physical Activity, Go4Life
National Institute on Aging: Exercise, Age pages
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