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Physical activity is vital to a healthy life.
It keeps you strong, reduces your risk of certain diseases and chronic conditions, and helps you maintain your health and independence.
Try for a moderate amount of activity (30 - 60 minutes a day) on most days of the week for full benefits like:
- Better physical and mental health
- More energy
- Continued independence
- Improved self-esteem
- Greater relaxation and better sleep
- Fewer aches and pains
- Help staying at a healthy weight
- Stronger bones and muscles
- Better posture and balance - which reduce your risk of falls and injuries
Taking the First Steps
First, consult with your doctor or health practitioner. Get his/her advice and medical clearance. Review any symptoms or concerns that might affect your safety. Based on your current fitness level and functional ability, choose an activity, fitness program or facility that matches your interests and needs.
- Get started!
- Set S.M.A.R.T. goals and action steps.
- Do a proper warm-up before and cool down after your activity.
- Drink water before, during and after your activity.
- Engage support from family and friends.
What kind of activity is best?
Canada's Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living for Older Adults advises that there are three types of activities you need to incorporate into a balanced physical activity program:
- Strength and Balance
Being physically active is an investment in your health. Endurance or aerobic activity increases your heart rate, breathing rate and body temperature - and, in the process, strengthens your heart and lungs and helps them function more efficiently.
Examples of endurance activities:
- Walking, Golfing
- Garden work (raking, digging), Housecleaning (vacuuming, washing floors)
- Cycling, skating, swimming
- Racquet sports, dancing, cross-country skiing
- Low-impact activities such as swimming and water exercises are recommended if you have concerns about mobility and balance. There are also low-impact exercises that are beneficial and help get you active, including wheelchair exercises and games.
Activities that help keep your muscles relaxed and your joints mobile help maintain flexibility. Try to include daily bending, stretching and reaching movements that take your joints through their full range of motion. A functional range of motion at all joints allows you to manage daily activities such as tying your shoes, reaching over your head and getting in and out of the bathtub without discomfort and strain.
Examples of flexibility activities
- Daily chores around the house (putting away groceries, dusting, sweeping), yard work (raking, digging, moving garden waste)
- Stretching routines before and after physical activity, yoga, pilates, T'ai Chi
- Stretch and strength classes
Strength and Balance
Adequate muscular strength allows you to deal with the demands of daily living and helps protect your joints and muscles from injury. For example, strong core muscles in your abdomen and back help reduce the risk of back injuries.
Strength activities involve working your muscles against a resistance. Examples of some strength activities are:
- Heavy yard work (cutting and piling wood), raking and carrying leaves
- Lifting and carrying groceries, climbing stairs
- Carrying laundry, weight/strength training programs
You can practice and improve your balance easily throughout the day. Stand on one foot, then the other while waiting for the kettle to boil or the bus to arrive. Kneel slowly from a standing position, holding on to a table or chair with one hand. As you progress, hold on with one finger and then no hands - you'll see your progress!
Active Living Coalition for Older Adults
International Council on Active Aging
National Institute on Aging : Senior Health
BC Recreation and Parks Association