Whole Health

Your Body on Exercise

As we age exercise becomes more and more important.  Regular physical exercise helps maintain:

  • balance, reducing falls and fractures
  • independent lifestyle
  • stamina, muscle strength
  • mood, well-being.
  • healthy bones, muscles, and joints.

Regular exercise can also help:

  • control arthritis and healthy blood pressure
  • prevent disease such as some cancers, Type 2 diabetes, etc.
  • improve living with debilitating conditions.

A sedentary lifestyle increases the risk for conditions that can lead to negative health issues, even causing early mortality.

Here is what happens to the human body with regular exercise:

Heart – The heart is a muscle and responds to exercise by becoming stronger. Enhance cardiovascular health with regular exercise to:

  • improve circulation (pumping blood throughout the body)
  • make the heart stronger
  • help prevent disease: high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, early mortality, etc.

Brain – increased cardiovascular fitness / regular aerobic exercise helps:

  • slow cognitive decline
  • improve memory and learning
  • brain structure (hippocampus ) grows
  • boost focus.

Mood – Attitude adjustment – sedentary behavior alters brain chemistry, increasing the risk of:

  • depressive symptoms – happiness and sadness are activated by chemicals in the brain (neurotransmitters)
  • decreased mental health.

Bones and Joints – Prevent falls and injuries with flexibility and balance exercises; maintain and increase bone strength and mass with resistance / weight training. This workout will help you:

  • prevent / slow development of osteopenia and osteoporosis
  • continue to perform activities of daily living (ADL) daily longer, into older age.

Waistline – to decrease waistline girth, increase exercise. Enlarged waist circumference is linked to extra risk of:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • developing insulin resistance
  • high blood sugar.

Cancer Risk – There is a correlation between lack of regular exercise and increased risk for certain cancers. Sedentary behavior is associated with an increased incidence of:

  • endometrial cancer
  • ovarian cancer
  • possibly, breast, colorectal and lung cancers.

Bottom Line: Exercise Regularly

It is important to exercise on a regular basis. The type of exercise that is best for you depends on age, injuries (past and present) and health conditions. 

Older adults should participate in at least (see table below):

Type of ExerciseHow Often (per week)Duration (per session)
moderate aerobic
vigorous aerobic
5 days
3 days
30 minutes
20 minutes
Resistance training
(muscle strengthening)
2 days to 3 days20 to 30 minutes
Flexibility and Balance2 days (or daily)10 minutes
Exercise Recommendations for Older Adults

More is better: Exercising more than the minimum recommendation results in extra health benefits and increased fitness. Increase workouts gradually.

As always, check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine. Participate in exercises designed to be safe and challenging for older adults.

Listen to your body, stay attentive to your rating of perceived exertion. Follow this link for additional information about perceived exertion:

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