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Healthy Active Living

Nov 6, 2009 | Campaigns, National Senior Safety Week

As Canadians get older, their bodies and lives change, some of these changes can lead to chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and various kinds of cancer. Sometimes people assume these conditions are a natural part of growing older, but research indicates that these chronic diseases might occur because Canadians are not active enough. It is estimated that 60 per cent of older Canadians are “inactive.” These inactive older adults are unable to reap the health benefits of a healthy active lifestyle.

November 6th – 12th is National Senior Safety Week, and Canada Safety Council along with the Active Living Coalition for Older Adults, encourages older Canadians to maintain and enhance their well-being and independence through a lifestyle that embraces physical activity and active living.

“Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, as we age, many of the illnesses and diseases that we acquire are brought on, or influenced by, our lifestyle,” says Patricia Clark, National Executive Director of the Active Living Coalition for Older Adults. “The unfortunate aspect is that these diseases may have been prevented with a healthier lifestyle, but the fortunate side, is that with modifications to our current lifestyle we can still significantly reduce our risk of many illnesses.” It’s not too late for older adults. We can re-educate ourselves to be active and healthy after years of a non-active lifestyle.

What is active living? Active living includes everyday activities such as, walking, dancing, housework, gardening, cycling, swimming, cross-country skiing, golfing, and many other activities. Physical activity is an important part of a healthy active lifestyle.
Walking is one of the best ways for older adults to keep active. Even walking just a little bit helps. Exercise epidemiologists have revealed the biggest health improvements are found in individuals who were not doing any activity and have now started to walk 1.6 kilometres a day, (i.e. 1 mile or 2000 steps). But there are also big improvements between 2000 steps a day and 4000 steps (2 miles/3.2km) a day, and continued improvements when you get up to 6000 steps (3 miles/ 4.8km). Walking is great for your legs and lungs, your heart and your head. It allows you to live a healthier life, as well as a better quality of life.

Why is it important? Benefits from regular physical activity include, better physical and mental health, more energy, fewer aches and pains from movement, weight maintenance, stronger muscles and bones, and reduced stress.
“The research confirms the important role that physical activity can play in the prevention of, or reducing the occurrence of, many diseases and illnesses, such as heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, Type II diabetes, osteoporosis, stroke, depression, colon and breast cancer, etc,” says Patricia Clark. “It’s never too late – a little walk every day can go a long way to reduce your risk of illness and disease.”

What can you do? Be active, in a way that suits you, on a regular basis. Walking is an ideal exercise for many people – it doesn’t require any special equipment, and it can be done any time and any place, and is generally a safe activity, which is especially good for seniors.

A study in Finland looked at over 16,000 men and women from the National Registry of Twins. The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that twins who walked regularly cut their risk of premature death by 44 per cent, when compared with their sedentary siblings. Walking provides great value to your life, and with little amount of effort, you can achieve health benefits.

Canada’s Physical Activity Guide for Older Adults recommends that generally an older adult should be physically active for 30 to 60 minutes every day, by doing activities that improve endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. Activities such as swimming and gardening, and any of the activities listed above, are great ways to keep you healthy.

How you can get started? It’s as easy as taking a walk around the block a few times a week. Once you get comfortable with that, walk a little further, or walk a little faster. As you progress you will want to walk at a pace as if you are late for an appointment, but don’t push yourself. Generally, you can exercise safely if you start at an easy level and slowly work up to a harder level. If you have not exercised for some time or want to try a harder exercise, talk to your doctor or a health care practitioner as to what exercise is best for you.

If you have a health problem, it can affect your choice of exercise. For example, if you have joint or balance problems, you might prefer activities such as swimming or Aqua-fit. If you can’t go out, you can exercise at home by walking or marching on the spot. Even people who are confined to bed can get equipment to help them exercise. Regardless, exercising does your body good, but merely reading research on how good exercise is for you will not convince you until you discover the benefits for yourself. Every little bit helps – start exercising your way to a healthy active lifestyle today.

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For more information, please contact:

Valerie Powell
Communications and Media Coordinator
Canada Safety Council
(613) 739-1535 (ext. 228)

Patricia Clark
National Executive Director
Active Living Coalition for Older Adults

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