Dietitians understand the importance of choosing a healthy lifestyle. This not only includes proper food choices but also includes physical activity/exercise along with good eating habits. Physical activity can have a positive effect on disease prevention and/or management. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), insufficient physical activity is one of the leading risk factors for death worldwide. Insufficient physical activity is a key risk factor for diseases such as cancer and diabetes.
And the WHO recommends that adults aged 65 or older should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.
The WHO also notes that regular and adequate levels of physical activity can improve muscular and cardiorespiratory fitness; improve bone and functional health; reduce the risk of hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, various types of cancer (including breast cancer and colon cancer), and depression; reduce the risk of falls as well as hip or vertebral fractures; and are fundamental to energy balance and weight control. People who are insufficiently active have a 20% to 30% increased risk of death compared to people who are sufficiently active.
It is important for the dietitian to remind patients that sitting too much can be detrimental to their health. Too much “down time” on the couch could make for an increased risk of developing chronic diseases. The American Diabetes Association advises a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week as part of their lifestyle recommendations to prevent diabetes. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than 100 million U.S. adults are now living with diabetes or prediabetes. As of 2015, 30.3 million Americans or 9.4 percent of the U.S. population have diabetes.
Older adults need to be made aware of the many benefits of exercise in that it can prevent age-related bone loss, weight gain and for some it can provide an improvement in joint pain. Physical activity may improve cognitive function and may reduce the risk of dementia. Older people who exercise moderately can fall asleep quickly, sleep for longer periods, and get better quality of sleep.
Not all those over the age of 65 can do extensive activity so individual plans would need to be developed and would need a doctor’s approval before starting. But any kind of physical activity along with proper food choices will provide a healthy benefit in the long term for all older adults.