Author: Maryann Vicari, UMC Physical Therapist
How do we age well and gracefully? This question has been on the mind of human beings for ages. We have all been searching, to some extent, for the fountain of youth or a way to slow down the aging process. Unfortunately, that fountain has yet to be discovered, and no scientist has come up with a formula that will keep time from aging the body.
Nevertheless, there is some good news. We, as humans, can improve our aging process and increase the number of “healthy” years by doing something that humans have been doing for centuries – MOVE! That’s right, moving the body is one of the best ways to age well and to help reduce the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and obesity, which are a few of the main causes of death and poor aging among older adults.
Evidence has shown that regular physical activity is safe for healthy and even frail older adults (ages 65 and older).
This physical activity can range from low intensity walking to more vigorous sports and resistance exercises, depending on the individual’s preference and physical ability. Basically, for older adults, some form of physical activity is better than nothing at all or a predominantly sedentary lifestyle.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), older adults need at least 2.5 hours of moderate intensity aerobic activity (think brisk walking) every week, which is about 30 minutes a day, and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hip, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).
This may sound like a lot, but please do not be discouraged; you don’t have to start here. If you have never worked out before or have been inactive for some time, you can safely work your way up to this point by joining a local wellness center or YMCA. There, you can find trained professionals that can help you work towards your goal of achieving a healthy and physically active lifestyle. As always, you should consult your physician before beginning any sort of exercise routine, especially if this is new to you or if you have a pre-existing heart or metabolic disease, such as diabetes and hypertension.
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Keep this in mind: If you want to improve your health or if you want to maintain the level of health you have for years to come, your best bet is get or stay as active as you can. The more active you are as you age the less likely you will be to develop debilitating diseases, which can only work as catalysts to age you beyond your years.
So, get out there and move your bones!
McPhee, J., et al. Physical activity in older age: perspectives for healthy aging and frailty. Biogerontology. (2016). 17: 567 – 580.