Physical activity is one of the most important things you can do to maintain your
physical and mental health and quality of life as you age. Walking, stretching and
keeping your muscles in good condition can help you maintain your independence indefinitely.
Studies show that being active reduces the risk of heart disease, falls and injuries,
obesity, high blood pressure, adult-onset diabetes, osteoporosis, stroke, depression,
colon cancer and premature death. In fact, moderate exercise and physical activity
can even improve the health of people who are already frail or have diseases that
Activity Benefits Checklist
Check which of the following benefits are most appealing to you:
- Better physical and mental health
- Continued independent living
- Improved quality of life
- More energy
- The ability to move with fewer aches and pains
- Better posture and balance
- Improved self-esteem
- Weight maintenance
- Stronger muscles and bones
- Relaxation and reduced stress
How to stay fit and mobile
If you have one or more chronic diseases such as heart disease or diabetes, or if
you smoke or are obese, you will need to consult with your doctor before increasing
your activity level.
To Get Going:
- Choose an activity that you enjoy! Buy a pedometer (measures the steps you take).
Check how many steps a day you do now – then set a goal each week to gradually increase
this number, one step at a time;
- Walking sticks are the latest trend for adding arm strength and stability to your
- In the winter, be sure to add ice grippers to boots, an ice pick to a cane or go
- Wear proper foot wear – check your feet frequently for any cuts or blisters;
- Don’t overdo it! You should be able to talk or sing a song without getting breathless;
- Keep hydrated by bringing a bottle of water;
- Always carry personal identification.
Are you at risk for a fall?
As we age, our health and abilities change. The risk for having a fall dramatically
increases once we reach the age of 65 years. Falls can be devastating to our future
well-being and quality of life. Use our Falls Prevention Checklist
as a tool to determine if you are at risk for a fall. Be honest! Have you had a
minor fall or ‘near miss’ in the past? Before you Get Going to Get Active
we recommend that you review this form with your Doctor.
Different Types of Exercise
Choose one that is just right for you.
There are three main types of exercise and each one provides you with different
benefits. Be sure to start slowly and gradually build up the intensity
and time. Listen to your body. Accumulate up to 30 – 60 minutes of physical activity
most days, at a level recommended by your Doctor. If your mobility is restricted
and you can’t get outside, you can still get active indoors, even while sitting
on your couch or wheelchair.
Endurance Exercise (start with 10 minutes, 4-7 days per week):
Activities in this category make you feel warm, breathe deeply, increase your energy,
improve your heart, lungs, and circulatory system. Be sure to wear comfortable clothing
and footwear including appropriate winter attire (boots, walking sticks, spiked
cane, etc.) to avoid falling.
Exercises in this category include:
- Cross-country skiing
Begin with ten minutes of exertion and progress to moderate exercise as your endurance
Flexibility Exercise (Start with five minutes daily):
These activities keep your muscles relaxed and joints mobile, helping you to move
more easily and be more agile. This group of exercises involves gentle reaching,
bending, and stretching. When you’ve done this for a while, you’ll notice an improvement
in your ability to tie your shoes, clip your toenails, reach behind your back, get
into and out of the bath, stretch to the top shelf of your closet, and get down
on the floor to play with your grandchildren. Start with five minutes of stretch
and hold activities without holding your breath or bouncing.
Flexibility activities include:
- stretching - dancing - gardening
- washing the car - yard work - vacuuming
- mopping the floor - bowling - curling
- Tai Chi - golf - yoga
Strength and Balance Exercise (Start with ten repetitions, 2-4 days per week):
These activities improve your balance and posture and keep muscles and bones strong.
Over time, you’ll enjoy more energy, improved muscle tone and strength, reduced
rate of injury and a faster metabolism that burns calories faster. This type of
exercise is most beneficial if you live with osteoporosis. Start slowly and breathe
naturally. Learn the right technique to avoid injury. Work with only the amount
of weight you can comfortably lift ten times before it becomes too heavy.
Resistance activities include:
- lifting weights (even soup cans will do) - wall push-ups
- carrying groceries - carrying laundry
- climbing stairs - piling wood
- standing up and sitting down repeatedly - heel raises
- leg extensions (seated) - sit to stand
You can download a printable
Activity Log to help you plan and meet your activity goals.
Tips for Adding Steps to your Day
It’s easy to increase your daily steps gradually and improve your fitness level.
(Did you know? One mile equals approximately 2,000 steps.)
Get a simple pedometer — many cost around $10, and some are even giveaways — and
track how many steps you take each day. The goal is at least 10,000 steps every
day. Work up slowly — you don't have to go from 1,000 to 10,000 overnight.
- Start a walking club at your seniors centre or join neighbours at a mall walking
- Take several, short 10 minute walks during the day.
- Park farther away in parking lots.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Take the longer way when walking to a store in a mall.
- On rainy days, walk up and down hallways and around large rooms.
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