Exercise and Longer Life

It Takes a Village

Exercise can mean a longer, healthier life for seniors

By Beth Chapman, Administrator, Arbor Village

I know it’s hard to get started, but exercising can not only make you feel better physically and emotionally and make you more energetic but it can actually extend your life.

In a study of more than 250,000 people, people aged 50 to 71 years old who got at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least five days a week were 27 percent less likely to die over the next six to seven years, according to the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md. Twenty minutes of vigorous activity (the kind that makes you break a sweat) three times a week helped even more, cutting the risk of death by 32 percent. And those that did both the five-day-a-week moderate exercise and three-day-a-week vigorous exercise cut their death risk by a whopping 50 percent. The results held true no matter the person’s gender, body mass index, smoking status, ethnicity, or educational attainment.

Some studies show that regular exercise is even more important for people who smoke, have cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure.

Exercise lowers risk factors for chronic disease like obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, coronary artery disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, depression, stress, and high levels of triglycerides. It improves mood, thinking and judgment, and the quality of sleep. It lessens the effects of arthritis, and strengthens our bones and muscles.

Strengthening exercises improve flexibility and balance, preventing falls that could land you in a hospital or nursing home, and aerobic exercises increase cardiovascular fitness and endurance. The CDC recommends that people aged 65 and older (with the consent of their doctors) engage in moderate to intense aerobic activities like brisk walking, bicycling, jogging, and dancing for at least two and a half hours every week. They also recommend lifting weights, working with resistance bands, heavy gardening, or yoga two or more days a week.

Other good forms of moderate exercise are bowling, golf, housework (like washing windows and floors), washing and waxing a car, wheeling yourself in a wheelchair, pushing a stroller, tai chi, and playing in the park with your grandchildren.

If you have chronic health conditions, it’s crucial to consult with your doctor before undertaking an exercise program. And if you’re just starting, it’s important to begin with just five minutes at a time and work your way up to half an hour. While heart attacks are rare during physical activity, the risk rises when you suddenly increase your level of activity.

If while or after exercising you experience any of the following, call your doctor immediately: chest pain; irregular, rapid, or fluttery heart beat; severe shortness of breath; ongoing and significant weight loss; or infections, like pneumonia or a fever.

And it’s never too late to start exercising. A Swedish study that followed 2,200 men for more than 20 years found that men who exercised more after turning 50 ended up living as long as those who exercised regularly before then, extending their lives by about two years, or about as much time as those who stop smoking.

Other studies show that working out almost daily can extend your life by nearly four years. And not only that, your longer life will be a healthier one.

So talk to your doctor and then get out there and exercise! Just half an hour five days a week can mean the difference between a shortened life troubled by chronic disease and a longer, healthier one.

Beth is the Administrator at Arbor Village. Arbor Village provides long term care and rehabilitation at 310 West Taft in Sapulpa. You can contact her at or visit their website at