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We all know that as our bodies age, we start to lose the ability to do things that were easy for us to do in our youth. Luckily, we can slow or even stop a good portion of these changes by staying fit and being physically active, especially when we are in our 50s and older. 
Being physically inactive is associated with a whole range of chronic diseases, many of which are associated with ageing. Additionally, it is also associated with reduced muscle mass, a reduction in balance and muscle strength and cognitive decline – all things we associate with ageing that take away our independence as we get older. 
There is good news though. Exercise can have a positive effect on both mortality and independence in older adults. Rates of chronic illness, such as type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease have all been found to be lower in people who exercise at moderate levels. Both muscle strength and aerobic fitness are strongly associated with functional independence. Studies have consistently found that in middle-aged and older populations, regular exercise reduces the likelihood of experiencing functional limitations by between 30-50%. This means, older people who exercise are less likely to have difficulty with things like mobility. They are also less likely to be injured by falls. 
Only one in ten Australians over the age of 50 exercises enough to benefit from it, despite how important physical activity is as we get older. If you are thinking about starting to exercise, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Choose an activity you think sounds interesting – you’re more likely to keep going if you’re having fun too.
  • Try exercising with friends and make it a social event.
  • Walking, swimming and cycling are easy, low-impact options for exercising – not all exercise needs to be vigorous!
  • Make sure you drink plenty of water!
  • If you have been sedentary for a while, or you have any health concerns, be sure to check with a doctor before starting any new exercise plan.

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