Editor’s note: The following is part of the Active Life special section.
Many health problems associated with aging can be reduced or avoided altogether by staying active. Those who suffer from chronic conditions like arthritis, or diseases such as diabetes or heart disease, can all benefit from simply moving more often. Whether it’s 30 minutes in a row most days of the week, or three 10-minute bursts of activity throughout the day, all active minutes add up and can make you healthier as you age.
For those suffering from arthritis, exercise can be a great pain reducer. Adults should aim for 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity per week. Exercising at a vigorous intensity significantly raises your heart rate and can make it difficult to say more than a couple words without taking a breath. This includes aerobic activities like running, swimming, spinning classes, stair-climbing machines or jumping rope.
Additionally, you should aim for 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week. If you’re exercising at a moderate level, you heart rate will be raised, you can still carry on a conversation, but may be unable to sing the words to a song. This includes brisk walking, heavy yard work, leisurely swimming, bicycling or yoga.
It’s also important to include muscle-strengthening activities and balance activities. Muscle-strengthening activities may include lifting free weights, using weight machines, working with elastic resistance bands or using your own body weight as resistance. Balance activities may include standing on one foot, walking backward or even some group exercise classes.
Exercise and remaining physically active is especially important for diabetics, because it helps cells use sugar in the blood for energy, and that means lower blood glucose readings.
Walking and biking are great options for beginners. If you are unable to walk or bike due to physical restrictions, weightlifting or chair exercises may be the answer for you. These types of exercises will help build muscle, and that uses glucose for fuel, thus lowering the amount of glucose in the blood.
If you suffer from bad joints, you might also find swimming and water aerobics a good choice for you, because there is no weight put on the joints to cause pain.
Heart disease is very common among older Americans, but staying physically active can help keep your heart healthy for years to come.
Physical activity helps lower blood pressure, strengthens the heart muscle and burns calories — all of which are important for keeping your heart healthy.
If you’re worried about putting too much stress on your heart by exercising, speak with your doctor about how much activity is recommended for you and what types of exercises would be most beneficial.
There may be types of activity you should avoid and warning signs you’ll need to watch out for, but doctors agree that staying active in a safe and healthy way can do wonders for your heart and overall health.
Where to start
Starting out is often the most challenging. Rather than exercise, think of it as simply moving more often.
If you worry about having equipment, know that expensive exercise machines are not always necessary. While many enjoy the social aspect of joining a gym, it’s just as easy to stay active in your own home. You can invest in a pair of lightweight dumbbells, a yoga mat and an elastic stretch band all for about $50 or less.
If you are the type of person who stays motivated with the help of a friend, find a buddy who you can walk or swim with a few times per week. Write the date in your calendar or set a reminder on your cellphone. Picking new routes and new places to meet for the exercise can also help keep you interested.
Staying healthy as you age may seem challenging, but one of the best ways to start is by adding more movement into your day. Routine check-ups and follow-ups with a primary care provider are also important steps to staying healthy.
Sue Trainor is a certified nurse practitioner in endocrinology at Mount Nittany Physician Group.