Health Aware: Exercise prescription for senior health

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

Staying physically active and exercising regularly can produce long-term health benefits and even improve health for some older people who already have diseases and disabilities.

Even moderate exercise and physical activity can improve the health of people who are frail or who have diseases that accompany aging.

Conversely, inactive people are almost twice as likely to develop heart disease as those who are more active, according to a report from the U.S. surgeon general, and a lack of physical activity also can lead to more visits to the doctor, more hospitalizations and more use of medicines for a variety of illnesses.

“We emphasize with our older patients how advantageous it is for their physical and mental health to exercise and keep active,” says Fowzia Ghouse, a family medicine physician with Edward Medical Group. “What’s great is that there are so many options to consider, between daily activities like taking a walk outside or using the stairs instead of the elevator, and more structured exercises like weight training, aerobics or other fitness classes.”

Scientists have found that staying physically active and exercising regularly can help prevent or delay many diseases and disabilities. In many cases, exercise is an effective treatment for chronic conditions. For example, studies show that people with arthritis, heart disease or diabetes benefit from regular exercise. Exercise also helps people with high blood pressure, balance problems or difficulty walking.

“I’ll tell patients, ‘Exercise is your medicine,’” Ghouse says.

If you’re just getting started, get the OK from your doctor and find out if there are any types of activities you should avoid or that would be especially helpful for you. In addition, go slow at the outset to avoid injuries and burnout. Build up the frequency and length of your workouts over time, so they become part of your daily and weekly lifestyle.

Dr. Ghouse is a board-certified family medicine physician who provides primary care services at Edward Medical Group’s office at 2132 Deepwater Lane., Suite 228, Naperville. To schedule an appointment, call 630-922-1400. For more information, visit www.edwardmedicalgroup.org.

Health Aware is a weekly column courtesy of Edward Hospital.

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