Why Movement Matters as You Age

Aerobics in swimming pool
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One of the hardest things to do as you age is keep active. It would seem intuitive that, since you were active in your 20s through 40s, you should just continue to stay active and everything would be fine, yes?

Actually, the answer is, “Not always.” To paraphrase my generation, “Stuff happens.” You trip over the dog, get involved in a car accident or feel a twinge of arthritis in you back, knees or fingers. Then, one day, it feels better to get another 10 minutes of sleep than do that 6 a.m. run. Or your parents call and ask you to go with them to the doctor which messes up your afternoon walk. Or the kids call and ask if you can put money in their bank account, so you skip aerobics class to go to the bank.

It does not take much to ruin a perfect exercise schedule. Then, it is easier to put it off to the weekend. Then, it’s easier to put it off until next weekend.

The September 2014 issue of the Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter mentioned an Australian study reporting that a lack of exercise is the greatest risk for heart disease as we age. This beat out other risk factors that included smoking, elevated blood pressure and excess weight. But the next concern is how much, how often, and does time of day matter?

Here is the latest information I found:

  1. In 2005, U.S. government guidelines recommended 30 minutes per day of exercise needed to maintain health and reduce risk of chronic diseases.
  2. Since then, energy imbalance, i.e. eating more calories than you burn, has become a significant issue. This raises the concern that the guideline of 30 minutes per day of physical activity may not be enough for some people to maintain a healthy weight.
  3. It was discovered that some people require as much as 90 minutes of exercise per day to lose weight and keep it off.
  4. In 2014, new recommendations found that 60 minutes per day of exercise is necessary to hold off chronic diseases, and that 90 minutes may be necessary for some.

Conclusion: If you are of normal weight for your height, then the recommendation of 30 minutes per day of exercise is still the right amount to hold off diabetes, hypertension and osteoporosis. But if you tend to put on weight easily as you age, then increase your daily exercise to 60 minutes — or to 90 minutes — and check with your doctor to help determine what amount keeps you healthy.

Regarding number of minutes per exercise opportunity, take advantage of that break in the day to get 10 minutes here or there. For instance, take the stairs when you can. It all counts toward your total for the day. To quote Laozi, the ancient Chinese philosopher: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Or to quote my generation again: “Keep on truckin’.”


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Robin Rood
Robin Rood, RD, LD, MEd, MA, writes about nutrition as a local expert for Examiner.com in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and blogs at NutritionAndSpirituality.blogspot.com.