Physical activity at any age is important, but as you get older, it becomes an essential part of a long, rewarding life. Here are a few reasons why incorporating diet and exercise into your day-to-day plans can add years to your lifespan.

By the numbers

Canada’s older adult population is growing. It’s projected that by 2061, we’ll have over 12 million people aged 65+. 

Yet even though this group bracket is increasing, activity levels are not. In fact, according to a Statistics Canada report, only 20 per cent of seniors get the recommended amount of physical activity each week. 

If you’re an older adult, you should aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. That doesn’t mean running a marathon or competing in a weightlifting competition. Anything that gets your heart beating faster and makes your muscles work harder is a good starting place.

A whole body workout

According to the National Institute on Aging, exercise helps you in a variety of ways that go beyond just a healthy body. Staying active can reduce your risk of dementia by increasing oxygen flow to your brain, lower your risk of osteoporosis by improving bone density and make you a happier person by releasing endorphins into your body. 

Other benefits include: 

  • Lowering stress and anxiety levels
  • Improving your sleep
  • Reducing the risk of serious disease
  • Increasing cognitive functions 

While there are countless benefits to increasing your activity levels, you should also watch for warning signs that you may be overdoing it. Dramatic weight fluctuations, ongoing muscle stiffness and prolonged weakness or dizziness are things you shouldn’t ignore. If you happen to notice changes in your body that are out of the norm, it’s best to consult a medical professional for advice.

A weight off your shoulders

According to Harvard Medical School, adults put on three to four pounds per year after they turn 40. But due to the aging process, they lose one to two per cent of muscle at the same time. That means the extra weight you gain ends up being mostly fat. This can contribute to higher cholesterol levels and increases your chance of developing type 2 diabetes. By focusing on positive eating habits and incorporating strength training into your health routine, you can help to minimize those risks.

If you’re looking to take your workout to the next level, you could follow Ernestine Shepherd’s path. She started her fitness journey at 56 without any previous gym experience. Now, she holds a title in the Guinness World Records at 80 as the oldest competitive female bodybuilder in the world!

You may not want to go to the same lengths, but two days a week of light aerobic activity can help control your weight and keep your muscles strong.

Never too late to start & stay active

Even if regular physical activity hasn’t been part of your daily routine, it’s never too late to change old habits and adopt new ones. The lifestyle choices you make, whenever you start, will have positive effects on your body. Things like eating a balanced diet, reducing alcohol consumption or getting a good night’s sleep contribute to healthy ageing. 

In a study from Sweden, a group of 50-year-old males were tracked over the course of 35 years. Subjects were asked to submit detailed information about their health habits every year. Researchers found that those who increased their activity levels, even into their 70s, extended their lifespans and their quality of life.

Taking a step in the right direction

The YMCA of Greater Toronto has been offering health and wellness classes for decades, but with the shift to digital programs with the COVID-19 pandemic, now you can stay active from the comfort of your home. So, whether you’re looking to line dance, lift weights or learn yoga, there’s an activity waiting for you to explore at The Bright Spot. Visit our activities page to learn more.