Data Encourages Physical Activity Among Older Adults
Aging Matters

Articles on healthy eating and exercise receive pushback from some readers. Even members in the elder orphan Facebook group resist the information and discussions that promote successful aging with complaints that healthy foods and exercise don't do the job of deterring chronic illnesses like diabetes and arthritis. I don't have the credentials to argue or convince them otherwise. However, the Centers for Disease Control might win that debate.

In a 2014 Morbidity and Mortality study, the government agency found that close to 28 percent of American adults over 50 are too sedentary. It claims that the age group doesn't just dodge stints of physical exertion; they avoid moving altogether and close to a third of them move no more than necessary and only carry out the simple functions. And lethargy significantly grew in specific age groups; the 50 to 60 segment was 25.4 percent, the 65 to 74 age group was 26.9 percent, and those over 75 were 35.3 percent.

According to the CDC findings, adults living in the South were the least active. Arkansas had the highest number of sedentary adults; the study found 39 percent of Arkansas 50 plus residents to be inactive, more than in any other state, followed by the Midwest. People in the West were the most active.

There were genders differences too; men are more active than women, and those living with chronic conditions are unlikely to be active much at all. The CDC suggests that city and state officials can encourage residents to increase physical activity by making cities more walkable and promoting lifestyle programs that nurture physical activity.

Benefits of Exercise

  • It makes you happy and less depressed since working out triggers the release of serotonin and other brain chemicals. Exercise also aids better memory and helps delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
  • It prolongs lifespan by as much as five years and slows down the aging cells by revving up the blood flow to the skin.
  • Even micro-workouts are beneficial and improve heart function and blood-sugar control. If a person pushes hard in short intervals, they reap lots of benefits with a little exercise.
  • It shrinks fat cells, something we all want. Since the body uses carbs and fats as energy sources, it burns fat more efficiently over time and makes our cardiovascular system stronger.
  • It helps patients recover from a major illness. Vigorous exercise, like interval workouts, helps those living with chronic conditions, from Type 2 diabetes to heart failure. Recent data from clinical trials found that patients recovering from a stroke could rehabilitate more efficiently by working out.

In short, the CDC confirms that physical activity can help delay, prevent, or manage the chronic conditions. Encourage your city and state officials to create access to places for physical activity like public parks, recreational facilities, senior centers, and malls. Look for related programs that encourage the use of these locations.

Carol Marak, aging alone advocate, columnist, speaker and editor at A former family caregiver, She earned a Fundamentals of Gerontology Certificate from the USC Davis School of Gerontology and writes about personal concerns while growing older.

Part of the Aging Matters Weekly Syndicated Column

Aging Matters is a weekly column tackling everyday challenges that our growing elderly population and their loved ones face. It is also published in a variety of syndication partners including newspapers all over the country.

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