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The Benefits of Staying Active As We Age

Staying active as we age carries with it both physical and mental benefits:

  • Significant reduction in risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers

  • Fewer falls and injuries

  • The ability to live independently for a longer period of time

  • More positive and improved moods

  • Feeling better about ourselves

  • improved cognitive abilities such as thinking, learning, and making decisions

What Kinds of exercise?

Being older does not mean you cannot be active. It can, however, mean that different exercises are more suited for you than others. Before committing to any physical routine be sure to visit with your doctor in order to discuss the affects of surgeries, or health conditions that may limit certain activities. With that said, choose physical activities that you will enjoy and stick with. It is also recommended to incorporate different forms of exercise which vary between endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance. Here are some ideas:


Endurance activities increase your heart rate and breathing. These types of activities improve health, fitness, and help to maintain your ability to do everyday tasks as you age. Along with strengthening your heart, lungs, and circulatory system, they have been linked to the prevention of diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis.

Examples of Endurance activities are:

  • Sports such as Golf and Tennis.

  • Indoor Activities. These are many and include joining a Fitness Center or Gym, Bowling, Swimming laps, Dancing, and Martial Arts.

  • Outdoor Activities which can include Biking, Running, Snorkeling, and Horseback Riding.

  • Around the House activities are not always seen as exercise, but they can really get things pumping! Keep up with chores such as Heavy Housework, Gardening, Raking, and Sweeping.

  • Walking! Any kind of walking you can think of...on the beach, around the block with the dog, through the mall, or a nature hike. Walking is one of the most beneficial exercises out there. So walk...walk... and walk some more!


Strengthening your muscles requires you to lift or push weight. We're not talking bulging muscles and and lifting dumbbells the size of Pintos...but the use of small weights, water bottles, household items, and even your own body weight during exercise significantly increases strength.

This means you will be able to continue to do everyday activities as you age, such as:

climbing stairs,

carrying groceries,

opening jars,

and getting up from your chair.

Additionally, strengthening the lower body helps to improve and maintain balance

Here are some illustrations from the National Institute on Aging demonstrating different strengthening exercises:

Upper Body

From the top

Front arm raise

Chair dip

Arm curl with resistance band

Side arm raise

Wall push-up

Seated row with resistance band

Overhead arm raise

Elbow extension

Hand grip

Arm curl

Lower Body

From the top

Leg straightening

Side leg raise

Chair stand

Knee curl

Toe stand

Back leg raise


Flexibility is achieved through stretching exercises which result in:

Increased joint movement

Improved posture

Relief from sore muscles and tension

Increased circulation

Muscle control

Improved balance and coordination

And a decrease in the risk of injury

Some excellent exercise can be found on the American Grandparents Association website. Just remember, if it hurts....stop! Stretching should feel good.

Tai Chi is also an excellent activity to improve both flexibility and balance.


Balance exercises helps us to do all those everyday activities, as well as preventing falls. There are many exercises that you can do in the home found on the National Institute on Aging website. However, one of the most beneficial activities to improve balance is Tai Chi, translated as "moving meditation" and practiced by individuals of all ages. Research has shown that Tai Chi can significantly reduce the risk of falls among older people, as well as

  • Improve bone and heart health

  • Ease the pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis

  • Help you get a better night's sleep

  • And improve overall wellness

Enjoy Yourself!

If you pick activities that you enjoy, you will be more likely to do them regularly and get the most out of your efforts. So have fun and keep moving!

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