Being physically active offers several health and fitness benefits that can pay off as you get older. Even if you're middle-aged and haven't been exercising regularly, you'll still reap health benefits by beginning now.
Ideally, you should aim to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity in every single day. The activity doesn't need to be traditional exercise. It could include everyday activities like yard work, construction or house cleaning. The more you exercise, the greater health effects you'll receive, so shoot for 60 to 90 minutes of exercise everyday if you can.
Keep in mind that any physical activity is better than none, so if you haven't been working out, it's okay if you begin by doing a little bit and then gradually build up to the recommended daily 30 minutes. Also, be sure to check in with your doctor before you begin exercising, especially if you're over 45 years old, feel faint or discomfort in your chest when exercising, or you have a family history of heart disease.
Additionally, research has found that long bouts of sitting to be associated with obesity and an increase in health risks. Try to minimize the amount of time you sit at once and get up and walk around to break up prolonged sitting periods.
Lower Body Fat Percentage
Participating in regular physical activity can help you combat the natural tendency to put on excess weight with age. As you get older, your metabolic rate naturally slows and people have the inclination to be less physical active. This typically leads to taking in more calories than consumed and thus an increase in body fat. With regular exercise, you're burning a greater number of calories all the time and in turn will help prevent the caloric surplus that leads to fat gain.
Reduced Risk of Heart Disease, Type 2 Diabetes and Some Cancers
Regular physical activity has shown to significantly reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. Heart disease and stroke are among the leading causes of death in the United States, but even moderate-intensity cardio can lower the risk of these diseases. People who are physically active have been found to have a lower risk of colon cancer and breast cancer than people who do not participate in physical activity. Findings in some research also indicate that exercise reduces the risk of endometrial and lung cancers.
Stronger Bones and a Reduction in Muscle Loss
With age, your bones weaken and your muscle tissue naturally atrophies. It's essential that you keep physically active to minimize this loss of bone and muscle. When you participate in cardio and weight training, you put stress on your bones and muscles, which in turn stimulates their growth. Bone loss is particularly of concern to women, who are susceptible to osteoporosis following menopause because of hormonal changes. The risk of falling and breaking bones increases and incidents like broken hips can lead to serious problems. However, regular exercise can help you maintain your muscle mass, strength and bone density.
Reduced Risk of Falling
Because of the natural loss in bone and muscle that comes with age, the risk of falling is higher for older adults. However, weight training and cardio exercise, even brisk walking, has been shown to effectively reduce that risk. The greater flexibility, strength and balance that comes with regular physical activity means an improved ability to do daily activities and a subsequent reduction in a risk of falling.
Improved Mental Health
Several studies have found that exercise is effective at treating and reducing the risk of depression. Exercise releases endorphins, which are "feel good" chemicals and research has shown that it can block negative thoughts and effectively distract you from real-life problems. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, studies have also shown that physical activity can keep mental health sharp.