Health Benefits of Physical Activity
What kinds of exercises and physical activities should you do to improve your health and your physical ability?
The health benefits of physical activity has been documented many times in health journals and scientific studies. Even if you just take a short walk it can improve you wellbeing. I will list four types of activities that you can do, which can be fun and beneficial at the same time.
Exercises generally fall into four main categories. I will be describing them separately, but some activities actually fit into several categories. For example, many endurance activities also help build strength, and strength exercises can help improve your balance.
Endurance, or aerobic exercises, increase your breathing and heart rate. These activities help keep you healthy, improve your fitness, and help you do the tasks you need to do every day.
Endurance exercises improve the health of your heart, lungs, and circulatory system. They can also delay or prevent many diseases that are common in older adults such as diabetes, colon and breast cancers, heart disease, and many others.
Physical activities that build endurance include:
• Brisk walking
• Yard work (mowing, raking)
• Climbing stairs or hills
Let’s make it fun:
• Playing tennis
• Playing basketball
Even small increases in your muscle strength can make a big difference in your ability to stay independent and carry out everyday activities such as climbing stairs and carrying groceries. Some people call using weight to improve your muscle strength “strength training” or “resistance training.”
Strength exercises include:
• Lifting weights
• Resistance bands
Balance exercises can help you prevent falls, a common problem in older adults. Many lower-body strength exercises will also improve your balance.
Exercises to improve your balance include:
• Standing on one foot
• Heel-to-toe walk
• Tai Chi
Stretching can help your body stay flexible and limber, which gives you more freedom of movement for your regular physical activity as well as for your everyday activities.
To increase your flexibility, try:
• Shoulder and upper arm stretch
• Calf stretch
Exercise and physical activity are good for your health. In addition, improving your endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility can help you do many of your everyday activities. For example, endurance activities will make it easier for you to push your grandchildren on the swings, vacuum or rake leaves.
Flexibility, or stretching, exercises make it possible for you to look over your shoulder to see what’s behind you as you back the car out of the driveway, make the bed in the morning or bend over to tie your shoes.
Strength training can help maintain your ability to carry a full laundry basket from the basement to the second floor, carry your smaller grandchildren or lift bags of mulch in the garden.
Balance exercises can help you stand on tiptoe to reach something on the top shelf, walk up and down the stairs or walk on an uneven sidewalk without falling.
So armed with all this information let’s get moving.
Pierre Schexneider M. Ed.