home   Although growing 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.

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Originally published by the NIDDK










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