The Importance of Regular Physical Activity

Exercise

Regular physical activity is good for your health.. It increases your chances of living a longer, healthier life. Whether you are an experienced athlete or just getting started, physical activity can help you look and feel your best.

The Basics

Physical activity is anything that gets your body moving. Start at a comfortable level. Once you get the hang of it, add a little more activity each time you exercise. Then try exercising more often.

What kinds of activity should I do?

To get the health benefits of physical activity, do a combination of aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.

Aerobic (“air-OH-bik”) activities make you breathe harder and cause your heart to beat faster. Walking fast is an example of aerobic activity.

Muscle-strengthening activities make your muscles stronger. Muscle-strengthening activities include lifting weights and using exercise bands.

Benefits of Exercise

Like most people, you've probably heard that physical activity and exercise are good for you. In fact, being physically active on a regular basis is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself. Studies have shown that exercise provides many health benefits and that older adults can gain a lot by staying physically active. Even moderate exercise and physical activity can improve the health of people who are frail or who have diseases that accompany aging.

Being physically active can also help you stay strong and fit enough to keep doing the things you like to do as you get older. Making exercise and physical activity a regular part of your life can improve your health and help you maintain your independence as you age.

Be as Active as Possible

Regular physical activity and exercise are important to the physical and mental health of almost everyone, including older adults. Staying physically active and exercising regularly can produce long-term health benefits and even improve health for some older people who already have diseases and disabilities. That's why health experts say that older adults should aim to be as active as possible.

Being Inactive Can Be Risky

Although exercise and physical activity are among the healthiest things you can do for yourself, some older adults are reluctant to exercise. Some are afraid that exercise will be too hard or that physical activity will harm them. Others might think they have to join a gym or have special equipment. Yet, studies show that "taking it easy" is risky. For the most part, when older people lose their ability to do things on their own, it doesn't happen just because they've aged. It's usually because they're not active.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health, inactive people are nearly twice as likely to develop heart disease as those who are more active. Lack of physical activity also can lead to more visits to the doctor, more hospitalizations, and more use of medicines for a variety of illnesses.

Prevent or Delay Disease

Scientists have found that staying physically active and exercising regularly can help prevent or delay many diseases and disabilities. In some cases, exercise is an effective treatment for many chronic conditions. For example, studies show that people with arthritis, heart disease, or diabetes benefit from regular exercise. Exercise also helps people with high blood pressure, balance problems, or difficulty walking.

Manage Stress, Improve Mood

Regular, moderate physical activity can help manage stress and improve your mood. And, being active on a regular basis may help reduce feelings of depression. Studies also suggest that exercise can improve or maintain some aspects of cognitive function, such as your ability to shift quickly between tasks, plan an activity, and ignore irrelevant information.

Physical Activity or Exercise?

Some people may wonder what the difference is between physical activity and exercise. Physical activities are activities that get your body moving such as gardening, walking the dog and taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Exercise is a form of physical activity that is specifically planned, structured, and repetitive such as weight training, tai chi, or an aerobics class. Including both in your life will provide you with health benefits that can help you feel better and enjoy life more as you age.

Losing Weight

Losing weight is never easy. Before you start a diet, talk to your doctor or nurse about a healthy weight-loss plan that’s right for you.

Screening and counseling for obesity are covered under the Affordable Care Act. Depending on your insurance plan, you may be able to get these services at no cost to you. Talk to your insurance provider.

What do I ask the doctor?

It helps to have questions for the doctor or nurse written down before your appointment. Print out this list of questions, and take it with you the next time you visit the doctor. You may want to ask a family member or close friend to go with you to take notes.

How does my weight affect my health?

Do I have a health problem that is causing me to be overweight?

How will losing weight help me?

What is a healthy weight for me?

How much weight do I need to lose?

How long should it take me to lose weight?

What are healthy ways to lose weight and keep it off?

How do I change my eating habits?

What kinds of physical activity do I need to do?

Could a weight-loss program help me?

Suggestions for Further Reading

Copyright: NIHSeniorHealth.gov and National Library of Medicine (NLM). This information, which is collected from different articles at NIH website, is in public domain and reproduced here for information purposes only as per the copyright laws applicable to the USA. It is not a substitute for expert advice.

Disclaimer: Information provided herein is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as a substitute for professional advice. Some exercises may not suit your physical and health condition. Before you begin any exercise routine you have to consider your health situation and consult your personal physician.

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