older means to many people that life will get worse, there is good news when it
comes to physical activity and aging. First, it is never too late to become
physically active. Second, even a small amount of activity can result in better
health. Third, research has shown key strategies for helping older Americans to
become more active.
For many adults,
growing older seems to involve an inevitable loss of strength, energy, and
fitness. But it need not be so. The frail health and loss of
function we associate with aging, such as difficulty walking long distances,
climbing stairs, or carrying groceries, is in large part due to physical
inactivity. When it comes to our muscles and physical fitness, the old
adage applies: "Use it or lose it."
Yet with physical activity and aging, there is
lots of good news:
First, it's never too late to become physically
active. No one is too old to enjoy the benefits of regular physical
activity. In fact, older Americans have more to gain than younger people
by becoming more active. Older people are at higher risk for the health
problems that being active can prevent. In addition, physical activity can
be an important part of managing problems that might already be present, such as
diabetes, high blood pressure, or elevated cholesterol. Finally, physical
activity can improve the ability to function well and remain independent in
spite of health problems. Few factors contribute as much to successful
aging as having a physically active lifestyle.
Second, investing a small amount of time in
becoming more active can produce big dividends in better health. Nature
has been kind in how physical activity affects our health. We need not
spend hours a day in vigorous activity to obtain health benefits. Significant
health benefits can be obtained by including a moderate amount of physical
activity on most, if not all, days of the week. Spending at least 30
minutes in moderate activity, such as a brisk walk or raking leaves, on all or
most days of the week has remarkable health benefits for older adults.
Third, research has identified a number of key
strategies for what we can do, as individuals and in our communities, to help
older Americans become more active. Although the reasons that older people
aren't more active are varied, the solutions for helping them stay active are
within our grasp.