An interesting article we just encountered on the website of the authoritative publication Consumer Reports is a great read for seniors and for those who love them, because it reveals something most of us should find reassuring. When it comes to living longer and staying healthier, five simple words can make all the difference: “Get out and get moving!”
It’s not exactly news that exercise contributes to longevity. Study after study has demonstrated the benefits of physical activity, helping preserve not only physical fitness and stamina but cognitive fitness as well. What’s good to know, according to the Consumer Reports article, is that it’s not just rigorous exercise that helps. According to researchers, virtually any physical exercise, from walking to household chores, has benefit. As the article puts it, “If you’re looking for ways to extend your life—and make those extra years healthier—heed this advice: Move at least a little and get out of the house as often as you can. That’s the takeaway from two new studies released Wednesday that look at how those who are 65-plus can live longer.”
Before we talk about the benefits of simply getting out of the house, let’s talk about physical activity. Part of the challenge for geriatricians trying to gauge the benefits of exercise on seniors, the article intimates, is that many of the exercise studies have focused entirely on adults under age 65. That’s what makes this new study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, so helpful. “Dutch researchers wanted to find out if being physically active (whether through work, exercise, household chores, or leisure activities) might reduce cardiovascular disease risk in older adults the way it does in those younger than 65,” Consumer Reports writes. The study included almost 25,000 men and women in three different age groups who reported their physical activity levels, and tracked these adults over a period of 18 years.
The encouraging results: “They found that physical activity was just as closely linked to a lower risk of heart disease in adults over 65 as it was in those are younger.” Study subjects who engaged in any form of daily physical activity reduced their cardiovascular risk by at least 14 percent. In the words of one geriatrician quoted in Consumer Reports, “This study shows that you don’t need a very vigorous workout regimen or to be walking six miles a day. Every little bit you move is better than not moving at all.” This data may help convince increasingly sedentary seniors to make more of an effort to be up and about every day.
The second study, this one done in Israel and reported in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, concentrated on the simple act of getting out of the house every day and how related it is to death from all types of disease. Researchers, writes Consumer Reports, “tracked men and women between the ages of 70 to 95 who lived at home, asking how often each person left the house per week on average and then tracked how long they lived.” The results appeared incontrovertible: “Those who left home most frequently—whether on their own or with assistance—were significantly less likely to die during the 25-year follow-up period than those who tended to stay home, the researchers found.”
A few specific data points show just how significant these findings are. For example, among 78-year-olds who left their home for any reason almost daily, 71 percent survived to age 85; however, among people the same age who rarely went out, only 44 percent lived that long. The study made the same comparison among 85 year olds and found that about three-fourths of those who headed out every day lived to 90, but for their house-bound peers the number reaching age 90 was barely 40 percent. One lead author of the Israeli study explained the correlation. “Getting out of the house is a proxy for a wider measure of being engaged with the world,” he stated. “Being active cognitively, reading, volunteering, and getting out of the house are all examples of a degree of activity and engagement with the world that seems to have some protective effect or that reflects an underlying attitude of resilience.”
In other words, if you’re a senior who stays at home most of the time, you could be adversely affecting your health. Similarly, if you are too content sitting around and not moving, you’re only making things worse. The good news, as Consumer Reports states, is that there’s no downside to giving these strategies a try. “Getting out of the house and keeping moving will help you feel better and have a better quality of life for however many years you have left,” says one geriatrician in the article. Start with something simple and work your way up to doing the things you used to enjoy such as gardening, cooking, or even just walking around the mall. Incorporate a social element if you can, walking with a friend or taking a gardening class. And as the article advises, “if there’s something keeping you inside, such as incontinence, depression, or pain, talk to your doctor to see if there’s a way to manage or treat the problem so you can improve your mobility—and get out the door more.” You’ll feel better and probably live longer if you do.
At AgingOptions we’re always surprised and a bit dismayed at the number of older adults who seem resigned to a sub-par lifestyle as they get older. We’re not talking merely about money – it’s simply not true that plenty of money guarantees a happy retirement. We’re thinking of those seniors who stop taking care of their health, stop being active, and assume that growing older means a downward spiral of decline and marginalization. It doesn’t have to be that way! Just as you can’t build a building without a blueprint or sail a ship without a chart, living well in retirement means having a solid plan, one that answers all your key questions and helps you approach aging with confidence and enthusiasm. A good plan helps you know that you won’t outlive your resources. It ensures that your wishes are legally protected. It guides you into the right housing choices and medical protection. Your plan even involves your family, because you don’t want to be a burden on your loved ones as you age. The only retirement plan we know of that does all that is an AgingOptions LifePlan.
Because this type of planning is so revolutionary, we offer free LifePlanning Seminars where people just like you come to meet Rajiv Nagaich and get their questions answered. Why not join us soon? You’ll find a complete listing of dates, times and locations here on our Upcoming Events page. Then simply register online or call us for help. If you want to follow the advice from the Consumer Reports article, here’s a great way to start: get out and get moving to an AgingOptions LifePlanning Seminar! Age on.
(originally reported at www.consumerreports.org)