Stay Active, Stay Healthy

January 27, 2014

Health care providers remind us that exercise for aging adults improves our health. What is important is that exercise doesn’t always mean lifting weights, training for a marathon, or biking across the country.  A new study provides further support that the idea of moving and keeping active is what is important for aging parents, caregivers and others.

Keeping active is key to maintaining healthy lifestyle

Keeping active is key to maintaining healthy lifestyle

The study

The British Journal of Sports Medicine recently published a study online with the title, “The importance of non-exercise physical activity for cardiovascular health and longevity.” This Swedish study looked at 4,232 men and women who were 60 years of age at the start of the study and followed these individuals for 12 years.  The study’s goal was to determine if their level of physical activity had a positive impact on their health, and it concluded that “a generally active daily life was, regardless of exercising regularly or not, associated with cardiovascular health and longevity in older adults.”

What kind of activity?

Traditional exercise is excellent, but other forms of activity can also be good.

Not surprisingly, those who exercised regularly in a “traditional” way were found to be at a reduced risk of heart attack. Perhaps more surprisingly, there was not really a difference between those who engaged in typical forms of regular exercise and subjects who just had active daily lifestyles.

In other words, being active, rather than engaging in particular kinds of activity, seemed to be the more important factor.  A person who spent time working in the garden every day, mowing the lawn, or engaging in household chores that required physical activity benefited as much as someone who trained for a long distance run.

The take-home message from all this: for aging parents and others, sitting around and doing nothing is not good. Finding a level of physical activity that works for them – whether it is going to the gym, taking regular brisk walks around the mall, or keeping the hedges trimmed – is very important.

Local senior centers or your neighborhood Y are excellent resources for a wide selection of exercise programs designed to fit all levels of activity and abilities.

As with any change in lifestyle, please visit your health care provider before engaging in a new exercise program. It’s always a good idea to get the “go ahead” and make sure there’s nothing which you need to avoid.

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