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Physical activity for older adults

One of the best ways to live a long and healthy life is through regular exercise.

There are many health and lifestyle benefits of physical activity for older adults. People with an active lifestyle feel healthier and have an improved sense of wellbeing. Beside feeling better, physical activity reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, colon cancer and diabetes.

Why should you be active?

Research shows that older adults with active lifestyles are often as healthy as less active people aged 15 years younger.

One of the best ways of living a long and healthy life is through regular exercise. It might seem like a chore, or you may think you don't have time. However, physical activity comes in many ways and forms, including gardening, housework and walking to the shops to buy the milk or newspaper.

Regular physical activity helps reduce the effects of aging such as limited mobility, balance, flexibility and muscle strength. It also decreases the risk of heart problems and osteoporosis, as well as keeping you in a happy and healthy frame of mind.

One way older adults are beating the stereotyped "old" image is through remaining physically and socially active. From golf, bowls, swimming, tennis, bushwalking, dancing or simply gardening or walking the dog, all these activities play a vital role in ensuring you look and feel younger and healthier, and have a better quality of life.

It's never too late to start exercising

Forget thinking you're too old to do physical activity - once you become more active you'll find you have more energy, sleep better, and will feel more self confident.

There are no rules or age limits to physical activity. Irrespective of how old you are or how often you have exercised in the past, there's no time like the present to begin doing regular physical activity. You'll begin to feel healthier and have more energy almost immediately.

The secret is to start off slowly with activities you enjoy, and gradually build on these. It won't seem like a chore if you choose activities you like.

The important thing about taking regular exercise is to start today. Just 30 minutes every day can keep you feeling younger, healthier and more energetic. You can break that 30 minutes down into 10 minute blocks, making the daily amount of physical activity recommended much easier to achieve.

How to get started

Focus on getting started, establishing a routine and enjoying the benefits of physical activity.

Getting started can be as simple as walking to the shops, taking the stairs instead of the escalator, or getting off the bus one stop earlier. Once you've started these simple things, it's then time to build on this exercise with some other pleasurable physical activities.

Choose activities that you enjoy - you'll be surprised at how quickly time goes by. If you enjoy gardening, then make a point of doing it for a little longer. Or take the dog for a longer walk.

Try a few different activities until you find one that suits you. You'll find it's then easier to establish a routine, and you could also make new friends.

It's also important to exercise at times that suit you, otherwise it will feel like a chore. Your aim should be to fit physical activity into your everyday schedule.

Activity ideas for older adults

There are hundreds of enjoyable physical activities you can do.

The trick is to find ones that appeal to you. As a starting point, here are some of the most popular and readily available forms of exercis

e for older adults.

  • Walking is the most natural exercise of all and fits in with almost everyone's lifestyle.
  • Gentle exercise classes provide great opportunities for social interaction and support.
  • Swimming is a good all round exercise and a great way to get fit.
  • Aqua aerobics is a group exercise class done in water and is very popular with older adults.
  • Golf is very good for stamina and leg strength if played regularly.
  • Weight training helps to keep bones and muscles strong.
  • Tai Chi is a martial arts form of exercise combining a physical workout, relaxation and skilled learning.
  • Gardening provides hours of enjoyment while improving your strength, flexibility and suppleness.
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