Staying Physically Active

Between the ages of 20 and 90, a person’s muscle mass decreases by almost 50%. Bone density decreases as well, resulting in bones that are more porous and fragile. This can make a fracture more likely if you fall.

Regular physical activity is one of the best things you can do for yourself

Regular physical activity helps prevent falls, and also helps protect against other age-related health problems. Studies have shown that as much as half of the loss in function with age is actually due to inactivity, not the aging process itself.

Regular physical activity can:

  • Reduce your risk of falling and fractures
  • Improve your posture and balance
  • Increase your bone density (so your bones are less likely to fracture or break)
  • Reduce aches and pains
  • Reduce your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, stroke and cancer
  • Increase your energy
  • Improve your self-confidence

As an added bonus, regular physical activity lowers your risk of suffering from mental health issues that are common amongst older adults such as depression, thoughts of suicide and anxiety disorders.

How much physical activity do you need to stay healthy?

Aging is an inevitable part of life.  But following the Canadian 24-hour guidelines for adults (65+ years) can help you stay strong, mentally fit, and independent. According to the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, adults over the age of 65 should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week. That breaks down to 5 sessions of 30 minutes per week.

Moderate-intensity physical activities cause you to sweat a little and breathe harder. Examples are:

  • Brisk walking
  • Bicycling

If you would like a bit more of a challenge, try some vigorous-intensity physical activities, which will make you sweat and be out of breath:

  • Cross-country skiing
  • Swimming

The Guidelines also recommend:

  • Muscle strengthening activities using major muscle groups at least twice a week.
  • Physical activities that challenge balance
  • Several hours of light physical activities, including standing

Well, it’s time to get out there and have fun! All the activities mentioned above can be done with friends and family and you’ll reap the rewards for years to come.

The content in this section was adapted from:

  • OPHEA, the Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging and PARC (Physical Activity Resource Centre): Advocating for Physical Activity, 2013.