Everyday activities help seniors improve health

Indian summer still affords time to get outside and enjoy the sunny days. It's also time for older adults to take advantage of the many healthy outdoor opportunities awaiting them, right in their own back yards.

Regular physical activity for people age 60 and older reduces the risk of developing diseases that are among the leading causes of debility and death in our country - heart disease, colon cancer and high cholesterol, to name just a few.

By engaging in some form of physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day, 10 minutes at a time, five days a week, people who are usually inactive can significantly improve their health and well-being.

Staying active and fit doesn't have to mean working out at a gym or buying expensive equipment. Everyday activities can help seniors maintain healthier weights, increase flexibility and strength, reduce blood pressure and prevent falls or injury.

Summer affords endless opportunities for having fun and staying active. There is no better time to start a physical-activity routine that doesn't have to be called "exercise."

The Healthy Aging Partnership, a coalition of 40 Puget Sound-area not-for-profit and public organizations dedicated to the health and well-being of older adults, offers these suggestions for staying active and healthy:

* Yard work, digging in your garden and waxing the car are great ways to get the heart pumping. Any activity or exercise that makes your heart beat faster counts as physical activity.

* Energetic vacuuming can give you a new outlook on household chores by giving you the opportunity to increase energy.

* Walking the dog is a great everyday activity that can increase your heart rate and improve circulation. (Walking the cat ... not so much.) Walking has also been shown to aid in the prevention of serious diseases such as colon cancer.

* Pushing a stroller gives the same benefits as walking, while helping to keep your balance and preventing falls. Take the grandkids out for a tour of the neighborhood or offer to give the mom next door a break by taking her little ones for a stroll.

* Wheeling yourself in a wheelchair helps with circulation, too. Don't let the restraints of a wheelchair stop you from staying active.

* Mowing the lawn is another outdoor activity that helps improve both the heart and the lungs. (And fresh-cut grass is so refreshing to smell.)

* Get involved in a group activity that offers both physical activity and the chance to meet other people. One local program of Seattle Parks and Recreation, Sound Steps, connects you with other walkers in the community and provides tools for measuring your progress.

* To avoid soreness or injury, start slowly and gradually to build up your routine and give your body time to adjust. If you've had health issues in the past, it's best to get your doctor's OK before embarking on a program of any new physical activity.

For more information about outdoor physical opportunities, Sound Steps and other issues related to life as an older adult, call HAP's free and confidential help line at 1-888-4ELDERS (1-888-435-3377). You can also e-mail hap@seniorservices.org[[In-content Ad]]