Exercise is the closest thing that seniors have to a fountain of youth. The physical and cognitive benefits of exercise have been known for decades, and the good news keeps on coming:
▪ Even a little exercise, such as a brisk 20-minute walk each day, can reduce the risk of early death by 30 percent.
▪ Exercise improves how you feel and move; whittles down your weight, cholesterol and blood pressure; and brightens your mood. Inactive people are twice as likely to develop heart disease, and they visit doctors more often and take more medications.
▪ In one long-term study, people who ate better and exercised reduced their risk of diabetes twice as much as those who took medication.
▪ Exercise is not something you do to get extra healthy. Rather, it’s necessary for normal function. Inactivity can cause dysfunction.
▪ In a recent study of 1,740 people over 65, dementia in individuals who walked three or more times per week was 35 percent lower than in those who walked less often.
▪ It’s not too late to start; becoming physically active even after midlife lowers dementia risk.
▪ For people 55 and older, memory loss was substantially reduced when cardiovascular fitness improved. The most physically fit seniors had the highest scores on tasks like coordination, scheduling and planning.
If you haven’t exercised in a long time, begin slowly with a low-impact aerobic activity that raises your heart rate, such as swimming, bicycling, or walking. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of aerobic activity five days a week, and strength training two days per week. If a half-hour a day sounds daunting, think small. Even a 10-minute walk is a good start.