As we age, many of the daily routines of life change. Our children become parents themselves. We retire. Some of us move to new communities. While some of these changes are natural, others can be detrimental to health and longevity.
“I would argue that as each of us gets older, we shrink our environment to get better control of it,” says Dr. Eric Tangalos, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic who specializes in Alzheimer’s Disease research and other aging issues. Tangalos argues that our behaviors reflect a shifting balance between the levels of autonomy and risk in our lives and our desire for safety and security.
Some of the shrinking activities include driving, hobbies, travel, learning, and maintaining friendships. One of the most reduced areas is physical activity. The CDC found that inactivity increases with age and that by age 75, about one in three men and one in two women engage in no physical activity.
There are many advantages to staying physically and mentally active as we age. The CDC notes that “physical activity need not be strenuous to achieve health benefits.” Some of those benefits include:
- Helps maintain the ability to live independently and reduces the risk of falling and fracturing bones.
- Reduces the risk of dying from coronary heart disease and of developing high blood pressure, colon cancer, and diabetes.
- Can help reduce blood pressure in some people with hypertension.
- Helps people with chronic, disabling conditions improve their stamina and muscle strength.
- Reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression and fosters improvements in mood and feelings of wellbeing.
- Helps maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints.
Helps control joint swelling and pain associated with arthritis.
Maintaining hobbies and relationships can help imbue our lives with purpose—which is good for health. Maintaining physical strength is key to keeping bodies healthy and strong in older age.