Routine exercise is good for people of all ages. But staying active at 55 and beyond also helps combat some of the natural physical changes that occur as we get older.

If thoughts of complex workouts or costly gym memberships seem daunting, don’t worry. Simply getting up and moving throughout the day to break up long periods of sitting or lounging is an excellent step in a healthier direction.

According to the Mayo Clinic, incorporating physical activity into daily routines can improve heart health, boost energy, reduce stress, strengthen bones and muscles, and enhance brain function. Follow these active aging tips and start maximizing your health and wellness while achieving your fitness goals.

Note: It’s important to consult your doctor to discuss any potential limitations, risks, or restrictions you have before you begin a new or updated exercise routine.

Start slowly

For optimum health benefits, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends doing 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and two days of muscle-strengthening workouts per week. However, it’s important to start new exercises slowly — especially if you’ve been sedentary for a while. In other words, don’t enter a 5K race if you’ve never jogged a mile.

It’s OK to start exercising for just 10 minutes a day. Taking baby steps can help prevent injuries and lead to maintaining a healthier lifestyle. Overall, moving frequently and sticking with a fitness plan is what matters.

Walking does wonders

Walking is one of the easiest ways to get in shape. Walking works heart muscles, helps with weight loss and can brighten your mood. According to an International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity study, healthy older adults should take anywhere from 2,000 to 9,000 steps a day.

Wondering how to fit these steps in? At home, make multiple trips up and down the hall, do laps around your kitchen or walk up and down the basement stairs several times a day. To get some fresh air and enjoy a change of scenery, take your dog for a walk, stroll through the park, hunt for beach treasures with a metal detector or go on a brisk walk through the neighborhood. Walking with a friend or family member (socially distant, of course) can also be a fun way to connect with others, relieve stress and make every step count.

Cardio is critical

Aerobic activities that increase your heart rate can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Therefore, cardio exercises are a critical part of any fitness program.

Pedaling a stationary bike, cycling, swimming, jogging or playing tennis are just a few heart-healthy activities that help combat aging’s adverse effects. Hiking, dancing and water aerobics are also fun options.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Building strength has benefits

You don’t have to do bench presses at the gym to build muscles. Lifting a basic set of hand weights or even cans of soup from the pantry at home at least twice a week strengthens your arms. Other exercises like squats build leg muscles, and rowing simulations strengthen your back.

Doing 10 to 15 reps of these strengthening exercises is a good starting point. To challenge yourself, add more weight, and increase reps when your routine starts to feel too comfortable. Building strength naturally increases endurance — the more physical activity you enjoy, the stronger (and healthier) you’ll be.

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Household chores enhance health

If you dread housework, you’re not alone. However, the upside to performing an endless list of rotating tasks like gardening, raking leaves, vacuuming and washing windows is that these everyday household chores keep you active. Check off these to-do items and keep yourself moving, stretching, bending and exerting energy — you’re burning calories and, more importantly, staying active.

Balance boosts brain function

Balancing exercises, such as standing on one leg, can sharpen neurological functions that decline with age. Getting up and down from the floor, sitting cross-legged or walking with a book on your head also promotes flexibility and coordination.

Finally, you’re never too old to learn something new. Try boosting your brainpower by picking up a new hobby like bird watching, geocaching or ballroom dancing. Overall, blending exercise with recreational activities can make actively aging fun.

Active Aging is presented by Koelsch Communities.

With 60 years of signature service to families, Koelsch Communities has been family owned and operated for three generations. Our continued success is compelled by our founding principles as we strive to serve our residents with respect, dignity and compassion.