Seniors: Exercise Just as Important As Medicine

We've all heard the stories about an elderly person who takes a fall, breaks a bone or gets seriously injured. The journey after that might include a trip to the hospital, surgery, and a lengthy bout of physical therapy. Some recover, and some don't. For those who don't, losing mobility can also mean losing a level of independence.

Is that just part of growing old? Or is there something you can do to maintain mobility, health, and independence as you age? Yes. Be more active. Exercise. Walk more. Even if you're already in your senior years and haven't been active in the past, it's never too late to start, according to a Yale University study.

In the study, researchers followed 1,600 seniors ages 70 to 89. Everyone in the group was at risk for developing a disability because of a sedentary lifestyle, chronic disease, or both. Researchers put them through a walking program and tracked their progress for 3.5 years. They wanted to see if a walking program would help reduce the risk of injuries that could impact mobility.

And you know what? It had a big impact. People who walked regularly, many who started out sedentary, cut their risk for developing an injury or mobility problem by 25 percent. And if they did develop an injury, they were more likely to recover faster, and more likely to avoid future problems.

OK, so maybe you're not going to set a world record like 91-year-old Betty Lindberg, and hustle your way around an 800-meter course in under seven minutes. But a little exercise goes a long ways, at any age. Yale researchers even suggest that prescribing exercise may even be more effective than prescribing medication to help aging seniors maintain mobility.

You don't have to run a marathon. Try walking for 10, 15, 20, or 30 minutes a day. Or take a class like tai chi, yoga, water aerobics, or fitness for seniors. Every investment you make to build muscle, strength, and balance via exercise will maintain your independence as you age.

And you can maximize results from your exercise efforts by eating healthier. Just check out the selection of Senior-Friendly meals and stock up on your favorites to make cooking and clean-up a cinch.