Movement and movement: fit for life

These older adults are living proof that exercise and physical activity are good for you no matter your age. In fact, staying active can help you:

  • Maintaining and sustaining strength to remain independent.
  • Have more energy to do the things you want to do.
  • improve balance.
  • Prevent or delay some diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.
  • Improve your mood and reduce the state of depression.

You don’t need to buy special clothing or join a gym to be more active. Physical activity can and should be part of your daily life. Find out what you enjoy doing: going for a brisk walk, riding a bike, dancing, doing housework, gardening, climbing stairs, swimming, raking leaves, etc. Try different types of activities that keep you moving. Find new ways to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine.

Four ways to be active

To get the most out of physical activity, try the following four types of exercise: 1) resistance, 2) strengthening, 3) balance, and 4) flexibility.

  1. During the week, or at least several days a week, engage in an activity that helps you catch your breath for at least 30 minutes. This is called an activity persistence because it increases their energy or “control”. It is not necessary to be active for 30 minutes at a time; 10 minutes of each activity is fine. Just make sure it’s a total of 30 minutes a day.

    How much effort do you have to put in? If you can speak easily during the exercise, you are not working hard enough. But if, on the other hand, you can’t speak at all, that’s a sign that you’re already trying too hard.

  2. Keep using the muscles. The exercises of Strengthening develop muscles. With strong muscles, you will be able to get up from the chair on your own, pick up your grandchildren and walk through the park.
    Keep your muscles fit to avoid falls that lead to problems like a broken or fractured hip. When the leg and hip muscles are strong, a fall is less likely.
  3. Do exercises to help you with this Balance. Try standing on one leg and then the other. If possible, don’t hold onto anything. Stand up from the chair without leaning on your hands or arms. Occasionally walk in a straight line with one foot in front of the other, with the toes of the back foot touching the heel of the front foot.
  4. Stretching exercises can help you with this Flexibility. When you move more easily, you’ll find it easier to do things like bend down to tie your shoes or look over your shoulder when backing your car. Do stretching exercises after you’ve warmed up your muscles and don’t stretch to the point of pain.

Who Should Exercise?

Most people, regardless of age, can engage in some form of physical activity. Even if you have a chronic medical condition like heart disease or diabetes, you should still exercise. Physical activity might actually help you. For almost all older adults, brisk walking, bicycling, swimming, weightlifting, and gardening are safe activities, especially if you start slowly. However, if you are over 50 years old and not used to active exercise, it is recommended to consult your doctor first. You should also talk to a doctor if you have or suffer from:

  • A new symptom that you have not yet discussed with your doctor
  • dizziness or shortness of breath
  • pain or pressure in your chest
  • A feeling that the heart is skipping beats or beating fast or fluttering
  • blood clot
  • An infection or fever accompanied by muscle pain
  • unplanned weight loss
  • Foot or ankle injuries that don’t heal
  • joint swelling
  • A detached or bleeding retina, eye surgery, or laser eye surgery
  • a hernia
  • Recent hip or back surgery

Preventive Tips

Here are some tips to make sure you’re training properly:

  • Start slow, especially if you haven’t been active for a long time, and slowly increase your activity and the effort you put into it.
  • Do not hold your breath during the strengthening exercises. This can lead to changes in blood pressure. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but the right thing to do is to inhale as you lift and exhale as you relax.
  • Wear preventive gear. For example, wear a bicycle helmet or proper shoes for walking or jogging.
  • Unless your doctor has restricted you, be sure to drink plenty of fluids when you exercise. Many older adults do not feel thirsty, even when the body needs fluids.
  • Always lean forward from the hips, not the waist. Avoid rounding your back; If your back stays straight, it’s probably because you’re leaning in the right direction.
  • Warm up your muscles before doing stretching exercises. First, try walking and exercising with light weights in your hands.

Exercise shouldn’t hurt or make you very tired. You may feel a little pain, discomfort, or tiredness, but you shouldn’t feel any pain. However, if you’re active, you’re likely to feel better.

Read more on this topic in English. Read more on this topic in English.

For more informations

The information in this document is provided by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, and has been verified for accuracy and timeliness by its scientists and other experts.

Text revised on: December 15, 2014

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