Staying active encourages independence and fun

Older adults gain a lot from physical activity.

The benefits of regular physical activity are endless. Weight control, improved mood and energy are some of the most noted ways exercise can improve quality of life. Regular exercise is encouraged for all ages, and is one of the best things older adults can do to promote independence and vitality.

Physical activity helps promotes strength, balance and coordination which can aid in fall prevention, support bone and muscle health. Keeping muscles healthy and strong can reduce signs and symptoms of common chronic conditions and diseases in the following ways:

  • Arthritis – reduces pain and stiffness, and increases strength and flexibility.
  • Diabetes – improves glycemic control.
  • Osteoporosis – builds bone density and reduces risk for falls.
  • Heart disease – reduces cardiovascular risk by improving lipid profile and overall fitness.
  • Obesity – increases metabolism, which helps burn more calories and helps with long-term weight control.
  • Back pain – strengthens back and abdominal muscles to reduce stress on the spine.

Despite the many benefits associated with regular physical activity, only half of all adults meet physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes/week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using policy and environmental level strategies to encourage greater physical activity within a community. Examples of these types of strategies include planning and zoning standards that promote active environments such as complete streets.

Another approach used to encourage activity among older adults has been playgrounds targeting this demographic. These multi-generational playgrounds have been sprouting up in several cities throughout the United States. According to news reports, the idea behind these community spaces was inspired by development in Japan and the United Kingdom. Designers and users of the playgrounds have cited them to be more fun and interesting than alternative activities such as walking the mall, and create opportunities for both young and old to gather and interact.

Interested in learning more about ways to stay active with age? Matter of Balance is an evidence-based program that emphasizes practical coping strategies to reduce the concern of falls among older adults. Check with your local Michigan State University Extension and Area Agency on Aging programming for a series near you.

Always be sure to check with your physician before beginning a new exercise or physical activity program.

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