It is important for older adults to exercise.  In fact, studies have shown that maintaining regular physical activity can help prevent many common diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. Exercise improves your overall immune function. However, when the wind is blowing and the snow is falling, low temperatures and icy conditions can prevent everyone young and old from getting active during the dreaded winter months.

If you’re not very active now, don’t try to change overnight. Rather, build up gradually to a total of 30 minutes or more of physical activity a day. Focus on doing things you currently enjoy — such as water aerobics, dancing, yoga, or walking the mall—and you will find it much easier to keep it up.

Physical activity for older people helps in several important ways. As we age, we lose as much as 20 to 40 percent of our muscle power. Continuing to use our muscles will help us to remain healthy and independent longer.

Being active is also a good way to maintain balance, which is important in preventing falls. Some balance exercises include standing on one foot at a time without any support. Or you can practice getting up from a seated position without using your hands or arms.

Another benefit of regular activity is flexibility. Being flexible can help you do “everyday motions” such as turning your head to see oncoming traffic and being able to reach for something on a shelf. Most experts recommend warming up with endurance or strength exercises, easy walking, or arm-pumping. Stretching should never cause pain—especially joint pain.

Of course, if you are at high risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease or diabetes, or if you smoke or are obese, you should check with your doctor before becoming more physically active. As you increase your exercise program, be on the lookout for symptoms such as chest pain; irregular, rapid, or fluttery heartbeat; severe shortness of breath; or ongoing, significant weight loss.

Staying healthy and vital in your senior years is no accident or “stroke of luck.” It’s simply a matter of eating right, getting exercise, and getting regular checkups. You do not need to buy special equipment or supplies to enjoy your new routine. The important key is that, by living a healthy lifestyle, you can be independent longer and get more enjoyment out of life.

Source: American Society on Aging

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