Aging, winter and exercise

Winter challenges may make outside exercise more difficult for aging adults. Don’t let this be an excuse.

Let’s be honest – it can be a challenge to be physically active during the winter months. Snow and ice make for unsafe conditions outside; some may feel like they don’t have the time or energy, or family and work obligations can also get in the way of exercise. A health condition or the fear of getting injured could be another reason for not being more active.

Exercise and physical activity is important for everyone, including older adults. Regular physical activity can help:

  • Decrease risks associated with chronic conditions including heart disease, stroke, some cancers, Type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis.
  • Prevent weight gain and promote weight loss (when combined with reduced calorie intake)
  • Improve cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness
  • Improve mental health and reduce depression

Where should you start? If you’re already active and have no health restrictions, the recommendation for adults is a minimum of 2.5 hours of moderate-physical activity, every week, along with muscle strengthening activities that work the major muscle groups. Indoor moderate physical activities could include walking briskly on a treadmill, riding a stationary bike, taking an aerobics class and/or swimming gently. Muscle strengthening activities include free weights and even lifting/ carrying your grandkids.

If you haven’t been active for a while, it’s not too late to start. Physical activity works best if it’s spread out during the course of the week and it can easily be broken into smaller increments of time during the day. Examples of lighter physical activities include walking leisurely, vacuuming and doing light housework. It’s important to start out slow, being realistic about what you can do and choosing activities that you enjoy.

Michigan State University Extension recommends that older adults consult with their doctor before increasing their activity level. Consult with a health professional if you:

  • Have a chronic condition such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis or asthma
  • Take medication to manage a chronic condition
  • Have lung, liver or kidney disease
  • Have had joint replacement therapy
  • Smoke

Your doctor can work with you to develop an exercise plan that is safe, appropriate for your physical abilities and helps prevent injury or discomfort.

For more information, check out the following websites:

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