It may seem difficult at first, but by starting off slow and creating a routine we can help keep ourselves mobile for longer as we age. Exercise is one of the most important tools to live a long and healthy life. Physical activity can help us live healthier and happier and can support mental fitness as well as being fun!
If we are inactive for a long time, we increase our physical limitations and are at a higher risk of health deficiencies. We run an increased risk of needing in-home care or develop further loss of function faster. As a result, doctors recommend staying active as long as possible to help preserve our mobility.
So what can be done every day to stay healthy and active?
- Keep moving. Any movement is better than no movement! Even activities that seem unimportant, like walking around the kitchen to make a meal, vacuuming, or taking out the trash is considered movement. If the store is close enough, try to do any shopping on foot, water outdoor plants in the morning, and get up to play with grandchildren!
- Start slow. We need a minimum of 2.5 hours of exercise per week to maintain good health! Some of us who suffer from physical impairments that make walking difficult should start slow. The best thing we can do for our bodies is to build strength in our legs, maintain our balance, and stretch often. Climbing up a set of stairs daily or taking a nice walk around the block in small, 10-minute increments will help us build up our stamina.
- Introduce light yoga. One of the biggest factors in loss of mobility is sore joints and muscles from an inactive lifestyle. Introducing 10 to 15 minutes of any type of stretching every morning can help keep us stay more active and increase our ability to do exercise throughout the day easily and without pain.
- Make it fun! Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore. When the recommended “10-minute increments” sound easy-peasy, introduce a longer walk around the lake to bird-watch or buy a lightweight bike for local trips. Community centers are fantastic resources! Very often these places will have special exercise classes for seniors, such as Zumba, yoga, or swimming.
- Invite a friend. It’s a lot easier to forget we’re doing exercise when we bring someone along for a chat. 10-minute walks can easily turn into 20 when we get a bit lost in conversation, and it’s natural to start to look forward to the routine meetings! Our mental health has a lot to gain from maintaining friendships in old age, especially as children move on and start families of their own.
- Combine healthy eating habits. Getting the correct balance of vitamins and nutrients helps keep weight regulated and therefore puts less pressure on our joints. It can also help reduce our risk of physical disability and certain diseases as we get older. In a study from 1992 to 2008, 55,000 women from the Nurses’ Health Study were analysed every four years with questions about their eating habits. The research found that those who ate healthier diets were less likely to develop mobility problems than those with less healthy diets. The study found that high consumption of “vegetables, fruit, moderate alcohol intake, low consumption of sugary beverages, trans fats and salt were associated with a reduced risk of physical impairment.” Link
The positive effects of increasing mobility will be surprisingly quick when a routine has been established! The less stationery we become, the more we will notice the changes that allow us to enjoy our life and maintain our freedom long into our senior years. Our families will thank us for it!