Senior health excercise

Healthy choices are important at every stage of life. While it can be easy to place healthy living on the backburner, it is crucial to take steps — however big or small — to stay active, especially as we age.

When compared to all other age groups, older adults are the least physically active. The National Institutes of Health’s December 2017 newsletter shares that only 15% of people between the ages of 65 and 74 engage in regular leisure-time physical activity, with this number falling to 5% for people age 85 and older. This is troubling as research shows that physical activity can decrease the risk of falls, preserve mobility and help to manage chronic conditions.

Physical activity can help people manage or decrease their risk of chronic conditions. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans put out by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that both adults and older adults do 150–300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week. While some older adults may not be able to get a full 150, the guidelines still recommend that they be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow. Any amount of physical activity is better than none.

Aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities are two great areas that older adults can focus on. Aerobic activity can help maintain or increase functional ability, while muscle-strengthening activity can help prevent falls. Research shows that there are significant benefits for adults who consistently incorporate aerobic activity into their schedule at least three times a week and perform muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week. Examples of aerobic activity include walking or hiking, water aerobics, biking and some yard work. Muscle-strengthening activities include squats, lunges, hand-held weights and daily chores such as carrying groceries.

Exercise can also lead to fewer hospitalizations and fewer healthcare costs. Research conducted by the University of Washington’s Health Promotion Research Center, Group Health Cooperative, and Senior Services worked with older adults, assigning some to an exercise program. An analysis showed that those who participated in the program had fewer hospitalizations (by 7.9%) and fewer health care costs (by $1,057) than those who did not participate.

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Nationally, the YMCA has committed to providing exercise options to active older adults. The Missoula Y has followed in these footsteps, offering an indoor walking track and group classes such as SilverSneakers, water aerobics, yoga and more to adults of all ages and abilities. Not only are adults in the Missoula community offered year-round consistent exercise options at the Y, they can also gain a supportive community of trainers, instructors and other participants.

Health education is the first step to a healthier life. Through partnerships with Providence Health & Services Montana and the University of Montana College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences, the Missoula Y is hosting a senior-focused health fair on Saturday, Oct. 12, from 7–10 a.m.

The Senior Health Fair will allow numerous organizations to come together to provide affordable and/or free health services under one roof.

The Senior Health Fair will offer affordable labs and tests such as lipid panels, A1C tests, and bone density screenings. Health professionals will be available to offer vitamin D and glucose tests, and the Y will share information about classes specifically for older adults.

The Senior Health Fair is open to the public. Admission is free. Some lab fees may apply. For more information, please call 721-9622 or visit ymcamissoula.org.

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Keri McHugh is chief operating officer of the Missoula Family YMCA. 

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