Just about every day we hear about the virtues of being physically active, but is it really all that important? After all, physical activity and exercise can be hard to do, especially if you have been inactive or ill. Here’s the deal: The very best thing you can do for your mind, body, and—yes—sometimes even your soul is to be physically active.
While physical activity is great for cognition and mood, today we will just focus on physical benefits pertaining to muscle strength and bone health. One of the great benefits of strengthening your muscles and bones can be improving your balance and reducing your risk for a fall. When your muscles and bones are weak, you have an increased risk of falling and sustaining an injury. One-third of adults over age 65 fall each year, and one out of five of these falls causes a serious injury such as a fracture or head injury. Falls are also the leading cause of injury deaths among seniors.
You may not think about preventing falls the way you think about preventing heart disease or diabetes, but many falls and related injuries can be avoided and being active is the best prevention strategy.
Find an activity you enjoy
Options for being physically active are almost limitless. The most important part is to find an activity you enjoy that is within your ability, then start slow and gradually ramp up. It doesn’t take a lot of activity to get noticeable benefits, and this is absolutely true for all ages. Discuss it with your doctor, friends, and family. There are often nearby senior centers with activity programs and websites like Go4Life (go4life.nia.nih.gov) from the National Institute on Aging or the American Heart Association’s website (heart.org), which can be very helpful.
If you have been through a recent illness or challenging treatment regimen, your doctor may recommend a physical therapy evaluation, which might help you discover enjoyable ways to start. Short walks, brief workouts, even performing sitting-in-place activities can be beneficial. Ideally, find a friend because having a partner can keep you motivated and engaged. Along with keeping your bones and muscles in shape, exercise will almost always improve your mood and give you more energy.
It’s time to get started and keep moving—so get busy being active and have some fun!
Matt Narrett, M.D., is chief medical officer for Erickson Living and leads the medical team at all Erickson Living communities. He received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School and has been providing care for seniors for over three decades. Reprinted with permission from the Tribune (ericksontribune.com). If you would like information about Windsor Run, the Erickson Living community in Matthews, NC, please contact a representative at 1-800-357-4492.