Why Is Physical Activity Such a Big Deal?

From National Institute on Aging, Go4Life Program

Regular exercise and physical activity are important to the physical and mental health of almost everyone, including older adults. Being physically active can help you continue to do the things you enjoy and stay independent as you age. Regular physical activity over long periods of time can produce long-term health benefits. That’s why health experts say that older adults should be active every day to maintain their health.

In addition, regular exercise and physical activity can reduce the risk of developing some diseases and disabilities that develop as people grow older. In some cases, exercise is an effective treatment for many chronic conditions. For example, studies show that people with arthritis, heart disease, or diabetes benefit from regular exercise. Exercise also helps people with high blood pressure, balance problems, or difficulty walking.

One of the great things about physical activity is that there are so many ways to be active. For example, you can be active in short spurts throughout the day, or you can set aside specific times of the day on specific days of the week to exercise. Many physical activities—such as brisk walking, raking leaves, or taking the stairs whenever you can—are free or low cost and do not require special equipment. You could also check out an exercise video from the library or use the fitness center at a local senior center.

There are many types of exercise and physical activity. You can search and find lots of tips to help you be active in ways that suit your lifestyle, interests, health, and budget, whether you’re just starting out, getting back to exercising after a break, or fit enough to run a 3-mile race. It’s for everyone—people who are healthy and those who live with an ongoing health problem or disability.

What’s the Difference Between Physical Activity and Exercise?

Both terms refer to the voluntary movements you do that burn calories. Physical activities are activities that get your body moving such as gardening, walking the dog, raking leaves, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Exercise is a form of physical activity that is specifically planned, structured, and repetitive such as weight training, tai chi, or an aerobics class.

Physical activity and exercise are both important and can help improve your ability to do the everyday activities you enjoy.

The bottom line?

There are many ways to be active every day. Find something you enjoy doing, include it in your regular routine, and try to increase your level of activity over time.

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