“That which is used develops; that which is not wastes away”, – Hippocrates.
Helping to prevent heart disease, cancer, stroke — exercise is worth the effort. Physical activity can help reduce your risk for many of the chronic illnesses that produce so much distress and disability as you age. The list includes hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis, and even Alzheimer’s disease. And if that’s not enough motivation, research has linked regular exercise to a 30% reduction in a man’s risk of impotence.
Regular exercise helps people age more slowly and live healthier, more vigorous lives. It also helps people live longer. Calculations based on the Harvard Alumni Study suggest that men who exercise regularly can gain about two hours of life expectancy for each hour of exercise. Over the course of a lifetime, that adds up to about two extra years. Maximum benefit does require regular exercise over the years, but it doesn’t mean you need to go to the gym every day. Just 30 minutes of brisk walking every day will go a long way toward improving your health.
Aim for 30 minutes every day. If that’s too much to start with, break it up into shorter bouts. Regular walking – especially if you do it briskly enough to sweat, feel a little breathless and red-faced – can deliver huge health benefits. It helps keep brain cells healthy by delivering more blood and oxygen.
It also helps you:
- Control your weight
- Boost your mood
- Keep bones and muscles strong
- Help you sleep better
Makes you less likely to get heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol
Endurance exercise is the best way to improve cardiovascular function. It helps keep the heart muscle supple and the arteries flexible, lowers the resting heart rate, and boosts the heart’s peak ability to deliver oxygen-rich blood to the body’s tissues. A related benefit is a fall in blood pressure.
Endurance exercise is also the best way to protect the body’s metabolism from the effects of age. Endurance exercise boosts mood and improves sleep, countering anxiety and depression. In addition, it improves reflex time and helps stave off age-related memory loss. All in all, many of the changes that physiologists attribute to aging are actually caused by disuse.
Where do I start?
The key is regular and consistent activity. Start slowly if you are out of shape, then build up gradually to 3–4 hours a week. A program as simple as 30 minutes of brisk walking nearly every day will produce major benefits. The WHO recommend at least 30 minutes a day of moderate-intensity activity, 5 days a week (150 minutes a week). The focus of this should be on aerobic activity, muscle strengthening and balance for over 65s. So, while walking is wonderful, the benefits you can achieve from adding some of the other types of exercise into your normal routine should be incentive to get started!