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  • Writer's pictureMCMC

Healthy Aging? Better Get Moving

Updated: Jul 30, 2021

Some people love it, some people hate it, but regardless of your personal feelings, exercise and physical activity are good for you—period. In fact, exercise and regular physical activity are considered a cornerstone of almost every healthy aging program. Scientific evidence suggests that people who exercise regularly not only live longer, they live better. And, being physically active—doing everyday activities that keep your body moving, such as gardening, walking the dog, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator—can help you continue doing what you love and stay independent as you age.

Specifically, regular exercise and physical activity can reduce your risk of developing some diseases and disabilities that often occur with aging. For instance, exercises that promote balance help prevent falls, a major cause of disability in older adults. Strength-building exercises build muscles and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Exercises for flexibility or stretching help keep your body limber and give you the freedom of movement you need to do everyday activities.

Exercise may even be an effective treatment for certain chronic conditions. People with higher blood pressure, diabetes, or arthritis can benefit from regular exercise. Heart disease, a problem for many older adults, may also be alleviated by exercise. Scientists have long known that regular exercise causes certain changes in the hearts of younger people. These changes, which include lowering resting heart rate and increasing stroke volume (the amount of blood pumped with each heartbeat), make the heart a better pump.

Evidence now suggests that people who begin exercise training in later life, for instance in their 60s and 70s, can also experience improved heart function.

In addition to benefits for the heart, studies show that exercise helps breathlessness and fatigue in older people. Exercises to build endurance—activities that increase your breathing and heart rate, such as dancing, walking, swimming, or bicycling—increase your stamina and improve the health of your lungs and circulatory system as well as your heart.

There are many ways to be active, but the important part is to actually do it. You can be active in short spurts throughout the day or set aside specific times of the day or week to exercise. Many physical activities, such as brisk walking or raking leaves, are free or low-cost and do not require special equipment.

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