Physical activity is an important part of staying healthy as you age, but it’s most important that you find activities that are fun and fulfilling for you. You don’t need to become a competitive athlete or do grueling workouts to have regular exercise be a part of your healthy lifestyle. The most important thing is to find activities that feel good for your body, that you enjoy doing and that you can realistically stay motivated to stick with.
Being fit as an older adult will help lower your risk of many common health concerns like type 2 diabetes, stroke, arthritis, osteoporosis and many cancer types, but it does so much more. Regular exercise can also help you:
There are four categories of fitness: endurance, strength, flexibility and balance. Each type of fitness offers unique benefits, but they are all interrelated. Many activities engage and improve more than one type of fitness at a time. Always speak to your doctor before starting a new fitness or exercise program.
Endurance activities are often called aerobic activities and they involve anything that increases your breathing and heart rate. They strengthen your heart, lungs and circulatory system and can prepare you for everything from playing with grandkids to dancing at a wedding. Activities that build your endurance include:
Your muscles will naturally atrophy as you age, but strength training can help you stay strong so that you can stay independent longer. Having strong muscles also provides better support for your bones and, because it goes hand-in-hand with balance, can help prevent falls. Many people choose to join gyms or health clubs for a strength training routine, but there are also many affordable, at-home ways to engage your muscles. Activities that build your strength include:
Maintaining your flexibility is important for keeping everyday activities, like tying your shoes or looking behind you while backing up your car, easy and pain-free. Yoga is a great way to improve your flexibility, but so is stretching on your own. The important thing to keep in mind is that you should stretch once your muscles are warmed up, like after strength or endurance activities. Be careful that you never strain to the point of pain when stretching.
Balance might be the most overlooked fitness type, but it becomes increasingly important as you get older because having good balance helps prevent falls. Balance is your ability to engage the right muscles at the right time, which also requires having sufficient strength in those muscles. Yoga and tai chi are both excellent balance-building activities. Additionally, practicing standing on one foot or moving from sitting to standing without using your hands helps build your balance fitness.
Many people will find it easier to be inactive, but more fulfilling to be active. Knowing that physical activity is good for your health and that you’ll likely be glad you exercised afterward, though, often isn’t enough motivation to get moving. That’s OK. There are other ways to get and stay motivated.
Staying active is a great way to maintain a positive outlook and mood, as well as keep your mind sharp and engaged. But, mental health and brain health also require their own fitness plans to keep you at your best.