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Healthy Aging: The Benefits of Staying Active

  • Category: News
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Donna Nordstrom, RN, BSN, MS

Published in the September 10, 2020 issue of the Worcester County Times.

September is Healthy Aging Month! It is a great time to focus on those behaviors which help us age healthier. Although we experience physical and mental changes during the aging process, there are things we can do to promote independence and well-being as we grow older. Healthy behaviors include activities such as selecting healthy food choices, not smoking, getting regular checkups by your healthcare provider, practicing safety measures to prevent accidents and/or falls, and staying active. Although all of these activities are essential to promote healthy living, during September, the National Institute on Aging is highlighting the life-long benefits of exercise and raising community awareness about the importance of staying active at any age.

Among older adults, studies show that regular physical activity improves quality of life and reduces the risk for developing chronic illnesses. According to the CDC, 28 percent of adults over 50 years of age are physically inactive and rates are even higher among those with chronic illnesses. Sadly, this equates to 31 million adults 50 years of age and older who are physically inactive. Inactivity is defined as those individuals not participating in any other physical activity beyond basic activities of daily living. According to the CDC, two in three adults are affected by a minimum of at least one chronic illness. From a population health perspective, physical activity not only reduces chronic illness rates but also reduces risk of premature death, reduces mobility limitations later in life, and reduces healthcare costs. In the United States, healthcare costs associated with chronic illnesses are approximately $860 billion dollars a year. Did you know four in five chronic illnesses can be managed or prevented from healthy behaviors such as regular exercise?

Regular exercise is important for all ages, especially for older adults. For adults over 50 years of age, staying active promotes fitness which allows individuals to keep doing those activities they enjoy. Endurance activities, such as aerobics, increase your heart rate which strengthens your heart and in turn improves your ability to complete everyday activities. Muscle strengthening activities, such as lifting weights, provides strong muscles for activities like gardening and playing with grandchildren. Balance exercises decrease risk for falls. In the United States, over 2 million older adults visit the emergency room each year related to falls. Injuries from falls can be debilitating. Better balance promotes safety. Stretching exercises increase flexibility and freedom of movement which is essential when completing everyday activities. Staying active is vital for healthy aging.

Keys to success include:

  • Make it fun! Find activities you like to do, preferably activities which incorporate flexibility, strength, balance and endurance.
  • Make it doable! Set reasonable goals. Although the CDC recommends 2 ½ hours of physical activity per week, you can break it down into smaller segments or set goals to reach the weekly recommendation as you develop your routine.
  • Listen to your body! Begin with low-intensity activities if you have been inactive for a lengthy period. If you are currently inactive and/or before starting any exercise regimen always talk with your healthcare provider.

If you would like more information on the health benefits of staying active check out and #Fit4Function with Go4Life a National Institute on Aging NIH initiative aimed to promote healthy aging through exercise.

Check out Atlantic General Hospital’s community event calendar for getting active programs such as Walk with a Doc