If you’re like many Americans, you probably never really considered physical inactivity a serious health problem. Yet the hazards of being inactive are becoming clearer every year.
According to the World Heart Federation, physical inactivity doubles your chances of developing heart disease and increases your risk of diabetes and high blood pressure. Any of these conditions may shorten your lifespan.
The good news is that it’s never too late to start exercising and reap the health benefits associated with physical fitness. Adding even moderate activity on a regular basis can improve your health and well-being, no matter what your age.
If you’re over age 50 and inactive, it’s important to check in with your doctor before starting an exercise program. After that, choose an activity that you enjoy and start out slowly.
Even if you haven’t exercised in years, you will benefit by increasing your activity level. Exercise builds muscle, stamina and coordination. It keeps bones stronger, keeps the heart healthy and helps prevent depression.
Exercise also helps with weight control, which in turn lowers your risk of Type 2 diabetes. And it increases your energy and helps you sleep better.
The two types of exercise to combine for good health are aerobic exercise and weight (strength) training.
Aerobic exercise moves large muscle groups and causes you to breathe more deeply and makes your heart work harder pumping blood. Aerobic exercise improves the health of your heart and lungs. Examples of aerobic exercise include walking, jogging, running, bicycling or swimming.
Weight training strengthens bones and reduces your risk of developing osteoporosis. Strengthening your muscles can improve your posture and make you less prone to lower back injuries. It can also improve your balance and coordination. Several good DVD sets are available that can instruct you in strength training. If you don’t want to purchase a set of hand weights, try lifting canned goods or water bottles to get started.
Exercising five to seven days a week offers the most health benefits. Walking is a great way to start aerobic exercising. A brisk 10-minute walk every day can gradually be increased as you gain stamina. Strength training is recommended two to three days a week, with a rest day in between.
Even washing and waxing your car or an hour spent gardening counts as exercise. Sneak exercise into your day by taking the stairs instead of the elevator or by doing housework at a faster pace.
A small amount of effort truly can make a big difference in your health.
Marilyn Ranson is a public relations specialist with NorthBay Healthcare in Fairfield, which is a member of the Solano Coalition for Better Health.