Regardless of your age, being active is a key to good health. As you age, exercise is even more important because it helps keep up your energy, strength, balance, and mood, and may help you remain independent longer.
What does exercise or being active mean for you?
Your answer depends on whether you’re feeling strong and well, out of shape or frail, or somewhere in between. Most people have choices when it comes to exercise, and, with your doctor’s help, you can decide what works for you.
Benefits of regular exercise
Regular exercise makes your heart and other muscles stronger and healthier. You may also notice that it improves your mood, lowers stress, and helps you control your weight. You feel better. Exercise also has medical benefits. When you exercise regularly, you lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol problems, and some cancers. If you already have any of these health condition, being active may help you have better control over them, feel better, and live longer.
- Before you do anything talk to your doctor about what’s safe for you.
- Plan. Set goals. You might find it helpful to write them down, along with the barriers that might get your way, and how you’ll reward yourself for achieving your goals. Make sure you set attainable goals. For example, if you haven’t been active recently (or ever) don’t set a goal of running in a marathon next week.
- Choose things you enjoy and can do; again, be realistic. Walking, hiking, swimming, water aerobics, bicycling, and dancing are all great activities.
- Be as active as you can, as often as you can. With your doctor’s approval, plan to work up to what health experts suggest for adults: Strengthen the major muscle groups at least twice a week (arms, legs, abdomen, and back). Get at least 2½ hours of moderate exercise a week (be active 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week).
- Start easy and go slow; slightly increase how long and how hard you’re active.
- If you find it hard to be active by yourself, find a group, class, or friend you can enjoy being active with.
- Don’t push yourself too hard. For aerobic exercise, here’s an easy way to know if your heart rate is at the right level. If you can’t talk and exercise at the same time, you’re working too hard. If you can talk while you exercise, you’re doing fine. If you can sing while you exercise, you may not be working hard enough.
Don’t hold your breath while you’re exercising.
Avoid heavy lifting.
Don’t exercise outside when it is very cold, hot, or humid. Find an indoor option instead.
Don’t take hot or cold showers or sauna baths right after you exercise; extreme temps can be dangerous.
If you feel really tired the day after exercise, exercise more slowly or for a shorter time until you can work up to a better pace.
If your exercise routine gets interrupted for more than a couple days, do a little less. Gradually increase to your regular activity level.
Don’t over exert yourself. Minor soreness or stiffness is to be expected at first, but pain is a warning sign to stop.
Stop exercising if: You think you might be having a heart attack. Call 911 right away. Symptoms include pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in your chest, back, neck, jaw, upper belly, arm, or shoulder. You’re panting or very short of breath. You feel sick to your stomach. You have pain, joint discomfort, or muscle cramps that won’t go away. You have any other symptoms that bother you.