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Maggie Jover: Aging, exercise go hand in hand

Being physically active can allow people to do the things they enjoy, stay independent as they age and produce long-term health benefits, according to Andrew Crocker, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension program specialist in gerontology health.

Regular exercise and physical activity are important to the physical and mental health of almost everyone, including older adults.

Physical activity can be especially helpful to older adults. In addition to helping mood and increasing social interaction, it may help prevent, delay or improve conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Physical activity also helps strengthen muscles and bones, which have a tendency to weaken as the body ages.

One of the great things about physical activity is that there are so many ways to be active. For example, you can be active in short spurts throughout the day, or you can set aside specific times of the day on specific days of the week to exercise. Consider these things when exercising:

Consult your doctor. Your doctor will determine if you are ready to start an exercise program.

Before starting any exercise and after completing any exercise, stretch. This will help loosen and warm muscles in addition to helping prevent injury and cramping.

Do something to increase the heart and breathing rate for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. The 30 minutes do not have to be all at once; it could be three 10-minute exercises.

Use your muscles. Every movement uses a muscle. When those muscles are not used because of a lack of physical activity, they weaken. Weak muscles can create an inability to walk or get up from a seated position. Strong muscles help reinforce bones, making falls less likely.

In addition to strengthening muscles, strengthening sense of balance is important. To do this, try standing on one foot, holding onto a chair for support if unable to do this task alone. Also, try standing from a seated position without using hands or arms. Be very careful when trying these activities and have someone else present.

The National Institute of Aging publication Exercise & Physical Activity: Your Everyday Guide has information on exercise for older adults as well as suggestions and illustrations for exercises. The publication can be found at

MAGGIE JOVER is the family and consumer sciences county extension agent with Texas AgriLife Extension. She can be reached at 940-349-2882.