There is an “I” in activity for a reason, so what are you waiting for? Staying active as you age is one of the most effective ways to improve your physical and mental health. For cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and diabetes, activity can be equally as effective a treatment method as some medications. Physical activity also has a positive effect on your mental health, with benefits that range from improving sleep, to easing anxiety and loneliness. It can also improve your balance, prevent falls, preserve cognitive function, and ultimately, help you maintain your independence.
There are many advantages to staying active as you age, but making it routine can feel like an impossible task. This can be especially hard if new changes to your body make old activities difficult. Your healthcare provider can offer advice on appropriate limitations to your activity. Dr. Kenneth Lam, a trainee on Dr. Paula Rochon’s aging team at Women’s College Research Institute in Toronto, would like to share a series of tips to help integrate activity into your everyday life:
1) It starts with attitude – If the first thing that comes to mind when you think about physical activity is that you cannot do it, it is hard to be motivated. Instead, remind yourself of the reasons why you want to stay active and do some research to find programs that suit your needs.
2) Make it fun and easy – Choose an activity that you enjoy so it does not feel like a chore. If you prefer the pool, try water aerobics. If you appreciate the quiet, opt for a yoga class or tai chi. Set a simple goal rather than an intimidating one. It is hard to commit to going to the pool every day for the next month; it is easy to say you will call the pool sometime this week to ask about opening hours and what programs they have available.
3) Make it a social outing – Consider inviting a friend to join you for a class or sign-up for a group activity in your community. By involving others in your daily or weekly activities, you can prevent social isolation and loneliness, which can have adverse effects on your health.
4) Carry your groceries – If you are doing a light grocery shop, try carrying your groceries around the store rather than pushing them in a cart. If you have a short walk home, carry your groceries with you. Adding muscle and bone strengthening activities to your daily routine will help improve your posture and increase your balance.
Incorporating physical activity into your routine can improve your health, wellbeing and overall quality of life. Start slow and aim for light or moderate activities for short periods of time throughout the week to build up your strength. Be patient and celebrate the little wins. By making small changes to your everyday routine and following these tips and tricks, you can stay active and feel your best as you age.
Jaimie Roebuck is a Communications Specialist at Women’s College Hospital.