Whether you’re already physically active or looking to get started, today is a great day to get moving! It’s the 25th anniversary of Senior Health & Fitness Day, the nation’s largest annual health promotion event for older adults. More than 1,000 local organizations in all 50 states are hosting activities such as fitness walks, low-impact exercises, health screenings, health information workshops, and more.
While exercise has benefits for the whole body, it is especially important for your brain as you age. Experts from the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH), a collaborative of scientists, health professionals, scholars, and policy experts who focus on brain heath and aging, agreed in a report that people who exercise “show beneficial changes in brain structure and function” and “have lower risk of cognitive decline.” Physical activity can make positive changes in our brains that will keep us sharp into old age.
The experts at GCBH also outlined the following guidelines for anyone looking to improve their level of physical activity and keep it enjoyable:
1. Know that whatever your age or current health status, there are options to be physically active.
2. Challenge yourself a little bit more over time, for example:
- If you are not very active, start stretching and walking at a leisurely pace.
- If you are already a walker or jogger, increase your pace or distance.
- If you are an active runner, keep running and start strength/resistance training.
- Be patient and persistent.
3. To stay motivated, consider doing physical activities with other people. Social aspects of physical activity can help inspire you to continue your efforts.
4. Make concrete plans to move your body – think about when, where and with whom you will be physically active.
Want to put those guidelines to use? It’s not too late to get involved in this year’s celebration! Go4Life, an exercise campaign from the National Institute on Aging, has many helpful resources, including exercise videos you can follow along at home to improve endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. But remember—you do not have to become a marathon runner or Olympic athlete to start feeling the benefits of exercise on your health. A stroll through the park, an hour of gardening, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator is a great start!
For more resources on the aging brain, check out the Successful Aging & Your Brain page on dana.org.
– Ali Chunovic