Go4Life

(NIA) Exercise and physical activity are good for just about everyone, including older adults. No matter your health and physical abilities, you can gain a lot by staying active. In fact, in most cases you have more to lose by not being active.

Benefits of Physical Activity

Here are just a few of the benefits. Exercise and physical activity:

  • Can help maintain and improve your physical strength and fitness.
  • Can help improve your ability to do the everyday things you want to do.
  • Can help improve your balance.
  • Can help manage and improve diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis.
  • Can help reduce feelings of depression and may improve mood and overall well-being.
  • May improve your ability to shift quickly between tasks, plan an activity, and ignore irrelevant information.

The key word in all these benefits is YOU — how fit and active you are now and how much effort you put into being active. To gain the most benefits, enjoy all 4 types of exercise, stay safe while you exercise, and be sure to eat a healthy diet, too!

4 Types of Exercise

Exercise and physical activity fall into four basic categories—endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. Most people tend to focus on one activity or type of exercise and think they’re doing enough. Each type is different, though. Doing them all will give you more benefits. Mixing it up also helps to reduce boredom and cut your risk of injury.

Though we’ve described each type separately, some activities fit into more than one category. For example, many endurance activities also build strength. Strength exercises also help improve balance.

Endurance

Endurance, or aerobic, activities increase your breathing and heart rate. They keep your heart, lungs, and circulatory system healthy and improve your overall fitness. Building your endurance makes it easier to carry out many of your everyday activities.

  • Brisk walking or jogging
  • Yard work (mowing, raking, digging)
  • Dancing

Strength

Strength exercises make your muscles stronger. Even small increases in strength can make a big difference in your ability to stay independent and carry out everyday activities, such as climbing stairs and carrying groceries. These exercises also are called “strength training” or “resistance training.”

  • Lifting weights
  • Using a resistance band
  • Using your own body weight

Balance

Balance exercises help prevent falls, a common problem in older adults. Many lower-body strength exercises also will improve your balance.

  • Standing on one foot
  • Heel-to-toe walk
  • Tai Chi

Flexibility

Flexibility exercises stretch your muscles and can help your body stay limber. Being flexible gives you more freedom of movement for other exercises as well as for your everyday activities.

  • Shoulder and upper arm stretch
  • Calf stretch
  • Yoga

Almost anyone, at any age, can safely do some kind of exercise and physical activity. You can be active even if you have a long-term condition, like heart disease, diabetes, or arthritis. Staying safe while you exercise is always important, whether you’re just starting a new activity or you haven’t been active for a long time. Be sure to review the specific safety tips related to endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility exercises.

Talking with Your Healthcare Provider

Most people don’t need to check with their health care provider first before doing physical activity. However, you may want to talk with your health care provider if you aren’t used to energetic activity and you want to start a vigorous exercise program or significantly increase your physical activity. Your activity level is an important topic to discuss with your health care provider as part of your ongoing health care.

Ask how physical activity can help you, whether you should avoid certain activities, and how to modify exercises to fit your situation.

Other reasons to talk with your health care provider:

  • Any new symptoms you haven’t yet discussed
  • Dizziness, shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • The feeling that your heart is skipping, racing, or fluttering
  • Blood clots
  • An infection or fever with muscle aches
  • Unplanned weight loss
  • Foot or ankle sores that won’t heal
  • Joint swelling
  • A bleeding or detached retina, eye surgery, or laser treatment
  • A hernia
  • Recent hip or back surgery

Being physically active and eating a healthy diet are keys to a healthy lifestyle. But what does “healthy eating” really mean?

Healthy eating:

  • Emphasizes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products.
  • Includes lean meat, poultry, fish, cooked dry beans and peas, eggs, and nuts.
  • Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, salt, and added sugars.
  • Balances the calories from foods and beverages with calories burned through physical activity so that you can maintain a healthy weight.

Visit What’s on Your Plate?: Smart Food Choices for Healthy Aging, an online guide to healthy eating for older adults. Find out what you need to know about food groups, serving sizes, food labels, and more.

Go4Life Tip Sheets

The following tip sheets from the National Institute on Aging at the NIH free program, Go4Life. are filled with information about the benefits of exercise, how to stay motivated, staying safe while exercising, and nutrition tips. These are just a few of the tips sheets that adults 50 and older can read on the Go4Life website.


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Citation

https://go4life.nia.nih.gov/tip-sheets

National Institute on Aging