Use It or Lose It

people biking and walking

With springtime quickly approaching, it is the perfect time to spring into action and engage in some physical activity.

The popular catch phrase “use it or lose it” is often used to promote healthy cognitive functioning; if we do not use the mind, then cognitive abilities will start to decline. However, this logic also can be applied to other parts of the body, such as the muscles. If you do not engage in regular physical activity your muscles will waste away, losing strength and stamina; this is known as muscle atrophy. In fact, all organs benefit from engaging in physical activity. Regular physical inactivity is primarily seen in older adults, with more than 25% of adults 50 years or older considered inactive. Oftenj, we think of physical activity as a way to shed extra pounds, yet staying active acts as more than just a weight loss tool. As we age, it is more crucial than ever to continue to stay active and use all muscles, bones, heart, and other organs to help avoid, or at least slow, loss of function.

The impacts of physical activity will vary depending on the amount, intensity, and type of physical activity. However, even participating in leisure time activities will provide benefits and improvements in health outcomes. Keep using your body to…

…help fight chronic disease
Physical activity can help reduce an older adult’s risk for and provide proper management of chronic diseases such as type II diabetes, coronary heart disease, and obesity. By lowering blood pressure and providing weight management, physical activity reduces the risk of these diseases significantly. Physical activity also reduces the risk of developing cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, these diseases are some of the leading causes of death seen throughout the United States.

…ward off cancer cells
Studies have shown a link between physical activity and various cancers. Colon, breast, endometrial, and liver cancer are just a few examples of cancers, for which risk is reduced when participating in physical activity. Although, the amount and intensity of physical activity needed varies, several studies point to leisure activities as being sufficient enough to lower an individuals’ risk.

…keep your muscles and bones sturdy
Increased strength, stamina, and bone health is another benefit of regular physical activity. Bone health is especially important in older adults, as they are at higher risk for osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition where bones become weak, leading to fractures or breaks and is commonly seen in older adults.

…maintain a good mood
When one is participating in physical activity, the body releases hormones known as endorphins; this release increase ones’ mood. Physical activity reduces the symptoms of depression and anxiety.

…live a quality life
Overall, physical activity improves the quality of life. This is due to the increased health and wellbeing one experiences when they are physically active. In addition, for older adults, physical activity promotes and helps maintain independence. This is especially important for this age group since maintaining independence has been shown to provide significant improvements in physical and mental health.

Ways to “Use it”
Older adults should participate in a total of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week. However, this may be modified depending on an individual’s mobility and ability. For older adults, leisure time activities count as physical activity and is often a popular form of staying active. Below are just a few ways you can engage in physical activity:

  • Household chores
  • Gardening, lawn care, raking leaves, or shoveling snow
  • Dancing
  • Golfing
  • Walking for at least 10 minutes
  • Biking
  • Swimming or water aerobics
  • Taking the stairs instead of the elevator

Whatever you choose, just keep moving and “use it,” so you don’t “lose it.”