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By Lizabeth Gresham
Potter County Extension Agent
Family and Community Health—
The new year is here and many of us will be excited to start a healthy living goal. Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Everyone can experience the health benefits of physical activity – age, abilities, ethnicity, shape, or size do not matter.
If you are not sure about becoming active or boosting your level of activity because you are afraid of getting hurt, the good news is that moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, is generally safe for most people. Read about the benefits for improving your brain health, weight management, reducing disease, strengthening bones and muscles, and improving ability for everyday activities.
Immediate Brain Benefits
Some benefits of physical activity on brain health happen right after a session of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Benefits include reduced short-term feelings of anxiety for adults. Regular physical activity can help keep your thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp as you age. It can also reduce your risk of depression and anxiety and help you sleep better.
Looking to get to or stay at a healthy weight? Both diet and physical activity play a critical role in maintaining a healthy body weight, losing excess body weight, or maintaining successful weight loss. To maintain your weight: Work your way up to 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (for example, 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week). To lose weight and keep it off: You will need a high amount of physical activity unless you also adjust your diet and reduce the amount of calories.
Reduce Chronic Disease
Heart disease and stroke are two of the leading causes of death in the United States. Following the recommendations and getting at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity can put you at a lower risk for these diseases. Regular physical activity can also lower your blood pressure and improve your cholesterol levels. Regular physical activity can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. This is the combination of too much fat around the waist, high blood pressure, low (HDL) cholesterol, high triglycerides, or high blood sugar.
Strengthen Your Bones and Muscles
As you age, it is important to protect your bones, joints, and muscles. Keeping bones, joints, and muscles healthy can help ensure that you are able to do your daily activities and be physically active. Doing aerobics, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening activity at a moderately intense level can slow the loss of bone density that comes with age. Physical activity can reduce hip fracture and reduce risk of falling.
Regular physical activity helps with arthritis and other rheumatic conditions affecting the joints. Doing 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, if able, plus muscle-strengthening activity improves your ability to manage pain and do everyday tasks and improves quality of life.
Build strong, healthy muscles. Muscle-strengthening activities like lifting weights can help you increase or maintain your muscle mass and strength. This is important for older adults who experience reduced muscle mass and muscle strength with aging. Slowly increasing the amount of weight and number of repetitions you do will give you even more benefits, no matter your age.
Improve Your Ability to do Daily Activities and Prevent Falls
A functional limitation is a loss of the ability to do everyday activities such as climbing stairs, grocery shopping, or playing with your grandchildren. How does this relate to physical activity? If you are a physically active middle-aged or older adult, you have a lower risk of functional limitations than people who are inactive.
Improve physical function and decrease the risk of falls. For older adults, multicomponent physical activity is important to improve physical function and decrease the risk of falls or injury from a fall. Multicomponent physical activity is physical activity that includes more than one type of physical activity, such as aerobic, muscle strengthening, and balance training. Multicomponent physical activity can be done at home or in a community setting as part of a structured program.
Increase Your Chances of Living Longer
Science shows that physical activity can reduce your risk of dying early from leading causes of death, like heart disease and some cancers. This is remarkable in two ways:
1.Only a few lifestyle choices have as large an impact on your health as physical activity. People who are physically active for about 150 minutes a week have a 33% lower risk of all-cause mortality than those who are physically inactive.
2.You do not have to do high amounts of activity or vigorous-intensity activity to reduce your risk of premature death. Benefits start to accumulate with any amount of moderate- or vigorous-intensity physical activity.
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Content source: Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion