Staying Physically Active
Between the ages of 20 and 90, a person’s muscle mass decreases by almost 50%. Bone density decreases as well, resulting in bones that are more porous and fragile. This can make a fracture more likely if you fall.
Regular physical activity is one of the best things you can do for yourself
Regular physical activity helps prevent falls, and also helps protect against other age-related health problems. Studies have shown that as much as half of the loss in function with age is actually due to inactivity, not the aging process itself.
Regular physical activity can:
- Reduce your risk of falling and fractures
- Improve your posture and balance
- Increase your bone density (so your bones are less likely to fracture or break)
- Reduce aches and pains
- Reduce your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, stroke and cancer
- Increase your energy
- Improve your self-confidence
As an added bonus, regular physical activity lowers your risk of suffering from mental health issues that are common amongst older adults such as depression, thoughts of suicide and anxiety disorders.
How much physical activity do you need to stay healthy?
The good news is you don’t need to be an Olympic athlete to stay healthy! According to the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, adults over the age of 65 should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more. That breaks down to 5 sessions of 30 minutes per week.
Moderate-intensity physical activities cause you to sweat a little and breathe harder. Examples are:
- Brisk walking
If you would like a bit more of a challenge, try some vigorous-intensity physical activities, which will make you sweat and be out of breath:
- Cross-country skiing
If you suffer from poor mobility, try physical activities that improve your balance, which will ultimately help you prevent falls. And don’t forget to make muscle and bone strengthening activities part of your workout routine at least 2 days per week! Older adults who take part in strength training exercises (like resistance or weight training) can increase their muscle strength by up to 50% after only six weeks! Just ensure your workout makes you use all major muscle groups.
Well, it’s time to get out there and have fun! All of the activities mentioned above can be done with friends and family and you’ll reap the rewards for years to come.
The content in this section was adapted from:
- OPHEA, the Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging and PARC (Physical Activity Resource Centre): Advocating for Physical Activity, 2013.