For older adults, exercise comes at end of a lawnmower or a leash

It can be as close as back yard

For the Mirror

Summer is a time for older adults to take advantage of the many healthy outdoor opportunities awaiting them in their own back yards.

Regular physical activity for people ages 60 and older reduces the risk of developing diseases that are among the leading causes of illness and death in the United States. Heart disease, colon cancer and high cholesterol are only a few. By engaging in some form of physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day, 10 minutes at a time for five days a week, people who are usually inactive can significantly improve their health and well-being, according to Health Aging Partnership and Seattle-King County Public Health Department, one of the organization’s participating members.

Many people believe that staying active and fit means having to work out or buy expensive equipment. But you don’t have to go to the gym to improve health and vitality, health officials note.

Everyday activities can also help seniors maintain healthier weights, increase flexibility and strength, reduce blood pressure and prevent falls or injury.

Summer brings endless opportunities for both having fun and staying active, especially for older adults. There is no better time to start a physical activity routine that doesn’t have to be called exercise.

Healthy Aging Partnership, a coalition of 40 Puget Sound-area not-for-profit and public organizations dedicated to the health and well-being of older adults, offers these suggestions for staying active and healthy this summer:

• Yard work, digging in your garden and waxing the car are great ways to get your heart pumping. Any activity or exercise that makes your heart beat faster counts as physical activity.

• Energetic vacuuming can give you a new outlook on household chores by giving you the opportunity to increase energy.

• Walking the dog is a great everyday activity that can increase your heart rate and improve circulation. Walking has also been shown to aid in the prevention of serious diseases, such as colon cancer.

• Pushing a stroller gives the same benefits as walking, while helping to keep your balance and preventing falls. Take the grandkids out for a tour of the neighborhood or offer to give the mom next door a break by taking her little ones for a walk.

• Wheeling yourself in a wheelchair can certainly help with circulation. Don’t let the restraints of a wheelchair stop you from staying active.

• Mowing the lawn is another outdoor activity that helps improve both the heart and the lungs.

• Get involved in a group activity that offers both physical activity and the chance to meet other people.

• To avoid soreness or injury, start slowly and gradually to build up your routine and give your body time to adjust. If you have experienced health issues in the past, it is best to get your doctor’s permission before starting any new physical activity.

Additional information about outdoor physical opportunities and other issues related to life as an older adult is available from Health Aging Partnership’s free and confidential help line at 1-888-4435-3377 and by e-mail at

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