from the AICR Newsletter #116, Summer 2012
If you believe what you see, you might think that becoming less physically active is inevitable with age. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
While national surveys consistently show that older adults (i.e., people 65+ years old) are the least active age group among Americans, research suggests that maintaining a physically active lifestyle as we age is one of the most important things we must and can do to maintain both our physical and mental health.
Regular physical activity is essential for healthy aging. Not only does it help to combat several of the physical changes that come with age, such as loss of muscle mass and bone density, it also improves the overall quality of life for older adults, including:
According to the US Department of Health and Human Service’s (HHS) Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, all older adults should avoid inactivity. Some activity is better than none; older adults who participate in any amount of activity gain some health benefits.
In general, physical activity recommendations do not change based on age; both HHS and the American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) call for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity every day for all adults. Muscle strengthening (e.g., weight training, yoga, calisthenics) and balance activities are also important to include 2-3 times each week.
Knowing where to start with physical activity routine depends on what you’ve been doing and how ready you are to make changes.
If you haven’t been active at all, start small and build on your success. Strive to move just a little more every day as you work toward AICR’s recommendation to be active for at least 30 minutes every day. Here are some thoughts on how you might get started:
If you’re already active, add some variety to your routine. Aim to include aerobic, strength, and balance training in your routine every week. Consider:
For more information and descriptions of specific exercises, check out the National Institutes on Aging.
Always keep in mind that the most important thing is to move whenever you can. Some activity is always better than none.
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