Benefits of Physical Activity

Benefits of Physical Activity and Exercise for Seniors

David Volovick, MPH, Administrator, Park Avenue Health Center

Jodie Rodgers, COTA, Rehab Director

Physical activity and exercise can help seniors stay healthy, energetic and independent. Many adults aged 65 and over spend, on average, 10 hours or more each day sitting or lying down, making them the most sedentary age group. Inactivity is linked to a higher rate of falls, obesity, heart disease and early death compared with the general population.

Staying active while aging, is also important in helping to maintain overall health and independence. Inactivity can impede your ability to enjoy the things you like to do, such as playing with the grandchildren, walking to the shops, leisure activities and meeting up with friends.

Inactivity can lead to aches and pains that you never had before, and diminish your endurance. You may also be more vulnerable to falling. 

This can all lead to being less able to look after yourself and do the things you enjoy.

There is strong evidence that people who are active have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, depression and dementia. By remaining active and moving will reduce the risk of mental illness, ensure continued independence and help to lessen the likelihood of experiencing joint and muscle pain.

There are many ways to become more active, and it is not just about exercising.

As people get older, their bodies experience changes which include a loss of muscle mass, decreased strength, and flexibility. Remaining active can help to slow that decline. Even small changes in activity can help. Therapy Services may be helpful in developing an individual program to enhance an individual’s activity or exercise routine. Therapists can also help to modify a current activities routine for individuals who may be living with a chronic health condition or may be fearful of becoming more active.

Becoming more physically active does not mean putting on your sneakers and doing 25 jumping jacks! Physical activity is anything that gets your body moving. It can include anything from walking and gardening to participating in a recreational sport.

The goal should be to do at least 150 minutes of moderate activity every week.

Ideally, doing something physical every day, preferably in bouts of 10 minutes of activity or more each day is very productive! One way of achieving 150 minutes of activity is to do 30 minutes of physical activity, at least five days a week.
Daily chores such as shopping, cooking or housework do not count towards your 150 minutes, because the effort isn’t hard enough to raise your heart rate, although they do help break up sedentary time. In addition to your 150 minutes target, try to do some  activities that work your muscles.

Along with participating in regular physical activity, try to reduce the amount of time spent sitting down during the day. This means avoiding long periods of TV viewing, computer use, driving, and sitting to read, talk or listen to music. Sedentary behavior is considered a risk factor for ill health, no matter how much exercise you do.

Selecting activities that will be good for you will depend on your own circumstances, but as a guiding principle, it is a good idea to do activities that you enjoy. If you are already active, you may find it useful to know that 75 minutes of vigorous activity over a week is as beneficial as 150 minutes of moderate activity. A rule of thumb is that one minute of vigorous activity provides the same health benefits as two minutes of moderate activity.

Research shows that it is never too late to adopt and reap the health benefits from a more active lifestyle. For example, older adults who are active will reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke to a similar level as younger people who are active.

If you have been inactive for a while, you can build up your activity gradually to reach recommended levels. You will still be improving your health in the process, and you will reduce your risk of falls and other ailments. A good therapy program can assist in identifying any factors which may be contributing to inactivity. It can also assist in the development of your personal program to help improve overall activity level.

Simple changes in activity levels can greatly affect overall health and wellbeing. Moving from a sedentary lifestyle to a moderately active one will make the biggest difference to your health. The more you do, the greater the health benefits and it is never too late to begin!
Park Avenue Health Center in Arlington is a 5 star rated facility according to CMS (Medicare). With a commitment to quality and customer service, our Concierge, Dining Service, and Rehab programs define the gold standard of care at Park Ave.