Physical activity more important as we grow older

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Physical activity and exercise are important for all ages, but as we age oftentimes our activity levels tend to decline. Staying physically active and participating in regular exercise can help you continue to do the things you love and stay independent as you age. Adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week – 30 minutes most days of the week – and should perform muscle-strengthening exercises on two or more days each week. Regular physical activity and exercise can help us to maintain physical strength, improve balance, reduce feelings of depression and help to prevent and manage diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and osteoporosis.

So, what is the difference between physical activity and exercise? Both physical activity and exercise refer to the movements that we do that burn calories. Physical activities include things that we do in our day to day tasks such as gardening, walking the dog and using the stairs. Exercise is when we participate in a structured activity such as weight training, yoga, or an aerobics class. Both are important for your health and help improve your endurance, strength, balance and flexibility.

Before starting an exercise program or significantly increasing your physical activity it is important to talk with your doctor. Your doctor can help you choose the best activity level for you which will help to reduce any risks. Also make sure to get the right shoes to prevent injury, think of them as safety equipment for your feet. Choose shoes that are made for the type of activity you want to do (walking, running and tennis). Look for shoes with flat, non-skid soles; good arch support; enough room for your toes; and a good overall fit. Your shoes should feel comfortable from the first time you wear them.

To get started try to include physical activity into your everyday life. Being active is one of the most important things we can do each day to improve our health. Every bit of activity adds up! Start with 10 minutes a day and gradually add more time. You don’t have to be active for 30 minutes all at once. Try spreading your activities out throughout the day. Increase your activity level through activities that you may already do such as walking every isle of the grocery store while shopping or extending the amount of time you walk outdoors. Recruiting a friend or family member as an “exercise partner” will help keep you going. Be creative and choose exercises you enjoy doing. Dance lessons, bowling and gardening are fun and great ways to be physically active.

Physical activity is a great way have fun, improve your health and be social while gaining all the health benefits. The best way to be physically active it to make it part of your lifestyle. If you are interested in more ideas and information about physical activity and exercise contact Annie Sheldon at the UF/IFAS Extension Clay County at (904)284-6355.

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