It Doesn’t Have To Be Exercise

February 23, 2015

Woman Reading a book OutsideThe older you get, the less likely you are to exercise, not just because of ageing, but because of various accumulated health conditions: diabetes, arthritis, or just poor heart health.

While exercise is important for many aspects of health, people with other health concerns don’t have to go that far, according to recent research. Any sort of movement—anything other than remaining sedentary—will do.

You don’t have to leave your chair—shuffling your feet, moving your arms, or just tensing and relaxing muscles is a start, and an improvement to not moving. If you want to go further, talk to your doctor, who can recommend exercises, or even a physical therapist, to get you moving as safely as possible.

Without making the effort, there’s about a 13% risk of a major cardiac event over 10 years (study participants were in their late 70s). To give you an idea of risk proportions, about 15 minutes of movement decreases risk while 30 minutes increases it.

And another bonus—that activity time increases HDL/”good” cholesterol and decreases the “bad”/LDL cholesterol (and of course, being sedentary does the opposite).

Think of activities you can do with elderly relatives to help them move more. You can get small plants potted for spring, arrange cut flowers, do larger crafts (things that don’t require a fine or firm grip or fine accuracy), or take them on short walks.

And of course, younger people can invest in their future by building good habits now. You won’t get cardio benefits of the same proportion, but you’ll get some. Maybe better (because let’s be honest about most people’s priorities) other studies have shown that people who are more “fidgety” (the people who don’t sit still at their desk, for instance) tend to weigh less.

Find something you can do during traditionally sedentary activities. Want to watch the new season of House Of Card on Netflix? Watch it on your tablet while you’re walking on a treadmill (not even running!). Replace your chair with an exercise ball (better posture, and making yourself balance on it). Find ways to stand more often (standing desk, raised tables to work on). And when you’re standing in line (at the grocery store, post office, etc.,) fidget. Stretch up and down on your toes, swing your arms a little, etc.

What are other times of day you could use more movement for?

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