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3 different types of physical activity

Living a Long Life and Inspiring Movement

A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a colleague about a strength training program she was teaching. In our conversation, she shared that one of her participants was 90 years old. Immediately it reminded me of my great grandmother when she was in her 90’s. She was a walking machine! Not only did she incorporate this as her daily activity, she also walked to the grocery store a few times per week, as well as, to the laundry mat. Reflecting on my sweet grandma’s life and the 90-year-old strength training participant, I see firsthand how physical activity plays such an important role in your quality of life and longevity. Physical activity comes in many forms and is possible no matter our age.

Get Moving

The National Institute of Health defines physical activity as “any body movement that works your muscles and requires more energy than resting.” It could be walking, grocery shopping, playing with your children or grandchildren. Physical activity is anything that gets your body moving.  Exercise is a physical activity that is planned, something that is intentional; However, the words physical activity and exercise are used interchangeably. Both are words to describe an action to simply get moving.

What’s in it for you?

Making physical activity a part of your daily routine has been shown to have positive benefits and influence on many lifestyle factors. Physical activity can help manage stressors of daily life, help you get a better night’s sleep, improve cholesterol, reduce your risk of chronic disease, improve or maintain muscle strength and can even be a bone builder. Other benefits of physical activity are improving heart health including improved lung and circulatory function, as well as reducing risk of cardiac events and hypertension. It may also reduce risk of some cancers, aid in weight management, reduce inflammation, and improve immune function. And if that wasn’t reason enough to get moving, physical activity has been shown to lower blood glucose and improve insulin sensitivity which is especially important for diabetes prevention and management.

Getting Started

First and foremost, you should always consult your healthcare provider to see what type and intensity of exercises that are safe and effective for you. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend the following types and amounts of physical activity:

Ages 3 – 5 years
  • 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous intensity per day
    • Aerobic
    • Bone strengthening activities
Ages 6 – 17 years
  • 60 minutes moderate to vigorous intensity per day
    • Aerobic: 3 days per week
    • Bone strengthening: 3 days per week
    • Muscle strengthening: 3 days per week
Adults
  • Aerobic: 150 – 300 minutes moderate intensity or 75 – 150 minutes of vigorous intensity
  • Muscle strengthening: 2 or more days per week and include all major muscle groups
Older Adults
  • Aerobic: 150 – 300 minutes moderate intensity or 75 – 150 minutes of vigorous intensity
  • Muscle strengthening: 2 or more days per week and include all major muscle groups
  • Balance training: aim for 3 days per week

Most health benefits occur with at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity physical activity; however, some movement is better than none.

Move Safely

When you first begin incorporating physical activity into your daily routine, be sure to consult your healthcare provider first to ensure the activity is safe for you. When you make the decision to become more active, slowly progress. For example, if you are starting a walking program, aim for a certain number of minutes that is right for you. Let’s say you start with 10 minutes. Progress to 12 – 15 minutes the next week and 15 – 20 minutes the next. Keep adding minutes weekly at a pace that works for you until you reach your goal and/or recommended minutes over time. Consistency is key.  If you have a health condition or physical limitations, simply adapt activities to meet your abilities.

One common mistake is when we are very excited to start our exercise program and we go all in with a much too high intensity or if strength training, too much weight. If you haven’t previously been active and are starting a walking program with 60 minutes of fast paced movements, this will likely increase your risk of injury and muscle soreness. Whether injury or muscle soreness, our bodies will require a longer period of recovery. Recovery is important; however, this can often lead to losing your enthusiasm and the excitement you had when you first started. Avoid this and begin a physical activity program slow and steady. Make small increases whether it be minutes, intensity or weights.

Movement of any kind is good for your body. Finding something you enjoy and can fit into your current lifestyle is important for your consistency of daily physical activity. Start small with your goals until it becomes a routine. Words of encouragement: Just get started.

While my great grandma is no longer with us, she did celebrate her 103rd birthday healthy and without taking any medication. She was and will always be an inspiration to me to find ways to include daily movement, physical activity, exercise (or however you choose to define it) every single day – and just maybe I’ll get to celebrate my 103rd birthday, too.

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