Today is the 18th annual National Senior Health and Fitness Day in the U.S. (May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month and Older Americans Month, and the last Wednesday of the month is reserved each year for Senior Health and Fitness Day). In celebration, an estimated 100,000 older adults will participate in fitness activities around the country. Local organizations—recreation departments, hospitals, health clubs, libraries, houses of worship—have put together programs for their communities commemorating this year’s theme: “Make Fitness a Goal for Life!”
The vascular and brain health benefits of exercise are well documented—it would be hard to argue against exercise as an essential component of a healthy lifestyle, and of aging well. Regular physical activity may help reduce the risk of developing age-related diseases and disabilities and, in some cases, may be part of an effective treatment plan for conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Being more active may also help you continue to do the things you enjoy for longer.
Maybe you are an older adult who acknowledges the need to get moving, to help prevent disease and stay sharp. Perhaps you’re the caregiver for that older adult. Or, maybe you have been better about regular exercise at various points in your life, and would like to get back into the habit. How about celebrating Physical Fitness and Sports Month and Senior Health and Fitness Day by making (or renewing) your commitment to regular physical activity?
Though designed for older adults, the Go4Life campaign from the National Institute on Aging is a resource for those new to exercise at any age. At the center of the campaign are the book “Exercise & Physical Activity: Your Everyday Guide” and its accompanying DVD, both available in English and Spanish. With tips for getting (and staying) active and eating well, sample exercises, tools for assessment and maintenance, and a wealth of related resources, these free tools are valuable for those who want to start incorporating daily activity into their lives. If you’re a support group leader, physical therapist, senior center director, or fitness instructor working with older adults and exercise, the campaign offers special resources to help you engage your group.
If you are already active, but want more motivation to keep at it, consider joining a campaign like the Mature Fitness Awards Program for older adults. Not yet an “older adult”? Maybe you’re like me: young enough to enjoy a regular Zumba class…but old enough to remember “Get in Shape, Girl!” and jazzercise? Or maybe you’re a parent who would like to see your children develop an appreciation for physical fitness? Look into the all-ages President’s Challenge.
No matter the individual’s age, the expert advice to the currently less-than-active is the same: make it a priority, make it fun, and start TODAY.
Additional resources on exercise for older adults:
- Dana’s “Brain Resources for Seniors” web page has a collection of resources on exercise
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Growing Stronger – Strength Training for Older Adults and How much physical activity do older adults need?
- Get inspired and stay motivated by reading exercise stories from the NIH Senior Health website and Go4Life success stories.
And for all:
- The National Library of Medicine/NIH MedlinePlus page on exercise and physical fitness
- President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition