Nutrition-wise blog

Physical activity is key to healthy aging

By Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. July 29, 2016

Life holds few guarantees. One thing you can count on, though, is that if you're alive you're aging.

An important factor in determining how well you age is how physically active you are. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list these benefits of physical activity:

  • Weight control
  • Reduced risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, metabolic syndrome, some cancers and type 2 diabetes
  • Stronger bones and muscles
  • Improved mood and mental health
  • Reduced risk of falls
  • Improved ability to perform tasks of daily living
  • Increased longevity

The current physical activity recommendations are 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous activity. A whopping 60 percent of older adults don't meet these activity recommendations. Are you one of them?

Does this level of activity sound like more than you can do?

Don't worry. New evidence suggests that just 15 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity reduces mortality by 22 percent. Of course, there are added benefits as time is increased.

What are some moderate–intensity and vigorous-intensity activities?

Moderate

  • Walking briskly (3 miles per hour or faster)
  • Water aerobics
  • Bicycling slower than 10 miles per hour
  • Tennis (doubles)
  • Ballroom dancing
  • General gardening

Vigorous

  • Race walking, jogging or running
  • Swimming laps
  • Bicycling 10 miles an hour or faster
  • Tennis (singles)
  • Aerobic dancing
  • Heavy gardening (continuous digging or hoeing)

Certain health conditions may require a check-in with your doctor before you begin physical activity. So talk with your doctor and make a plan to get moving. Start slow and gradually add time and intensity as you're able.

Keep your goals reasonable. Remember that when the focus is your health, some activity is better than no activity.

July 29, 2016