It’s not the number of candles on the birthday cake that make you old, but the lack of activity and adventure as you age. Research has repeatedly found that sedentary lifestyles are harmful to health and that active people typically age better with fewer health problems.
Even knowing this, you might be thinking that it’s too late to get active, maybe you’re convinced you missed your window, but that’s just not true. Pending clearance from your doctor, you can enjoy sports and adventure—and we’re not talking about light walking and gardening.
When it comes to health and fitness, it’s tough to beat the benefits of water. Swimming improves strength and cardiovascular fitness in an atmosphere that’s easy on the joints, which makes it an ideal choice for older people. Other perks of the in-water workout include increased flexibility, better bone density and improved heart health. Regardless of your age, swimming, aqua-aerobics and other water-based workouts are safe and very effective. One study even found that older adults who swam were 33 percent less likely to fall—a major cause of injury in people 70 and older.
If the term “weight lifting” conjures images of young body builders pumping iron, it’s time to rethink this form of exercise. Safe and effective for older adults, lifting or strength training brings a slew of benefits including confidence, better sleep and fortified muscles and bones. Science also suggests strength training can help relieve arthritis pain, lower the chances of a fall and prevent premature death. Weight lifting programs can be tailored to fit people of all ages and abilities, making this a great choice for everyone—even those short on time.
Connect with nature, get moving and reap the benefits. From local two-mile hikes to tackling large chunks of the Appalachian Trail, older hikers are coming out in large numbers and discovering the rewards of hiking. An unrivaled sense of independence tops the list of benefits for most hikers, while nature provides a calm escape and encourages longer periods of activity than a walk around the neighborhood. All that activity comes with a long list of health benefits, which include better circulation, mobility and a reduced risk of hospitalization.
It’s been said that kids keep you young and that’s never more accurate than when you’re chasing them around. Whether you go to a park, beach or the backyard, taking time to horse around with the kids (or grandkids) will build stronger bonds and bodies.
Volunteer opportunities can keep you active while giving you the opportunity to help others. Walk the dogs at a local animal shelter, help clean or plant at your local park or lend your expertise and energy on a local project—however you choose to help volunteering will keep you moving and others will appreciate the help.
If solo exercise just isn’t for you and you miss the competitive nature and teamwork of organized sports, you should consider joining a local league. Adult sports leagues offer everything from basketball to bocce in areas across the country. Whatever your sport of choice, there’s a good chance you can find others playing, so join and reap the physical benefits, while making some new friends.
The practice of uniting the mind, body and breath, yoga comes with many benefits for people of all ages. From increased flexibility to stress relief, taking some time to move through poses is certainly worthwhile. Whether you practice on your own or join a group class, yoga will help increase your strength, improve circulation and keep you in the moment.
Whether you’ve embraced digital exercise tracking or you prefer to keep it old school, challenging a friend can help further your progress. Go to the gym together, hike a local trail together or work out on your own and then meet up (or call) your friend to see how you stack up. A friendly challenge will keep you motivated and going strong.
Bike riding isn’t just for kids, but it will keep you young—take a spin around the block, join a cycling club or enter a race to see for yourself. Easier on your legs than running, cycling is something you can enjoy for your whole life and the benefits are nearly endless. Stress relief, meeting new people, spending time outdoors—and that’s not even counting the physical benefits.
Kayaking, traveling, climbing a mountain—the sky is the limit. Know your limits and consult a doctor before trying anything too crazy, but chances are your body more capable than you think. Trying a new sport or activity is great for the mind and body, you’re never too old to learn something new, so get out there and explore.