May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Awareness Month and a great time to consider ways to increase activity levels no matter what your age.
For children and adolescents, physical activity can improve muscle fitness, bone health and heart health. Having more muscle mass burns more calories because muscle burns more than fat. This is a great way to prevent childhood obesity. In addition, regular exercise improves mood, sleep quality and concentration.
For adults, physical activity can lower the risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and even some types of cancer. It can also prevent osteoporosis, or the degeneration and weakening of the bones of the spine and hips.
For older adults, physical activity can lower the risk of falls and improve cognitive functioning like learning, memory and judgment skills. Regular exercise has also been linked to lower rates of Alzheimer’s dementia.
In Michigan, we have some challenges with weather in terms of outdoor activity. However, small efforts do add up. In winter, walking those big box stores can help with activity. Wearing a pedometer, which cost as little as $10, and trying to get 10,000 steps per day every day is another common sense way to get activity. Taking a short walk or bike ride after dinner in the spring, summer and fall are also great ways to increase activity.
Local resources to consider: Charlotte Aquatic Center; AL!VE in Charlotte with a free indoor walking path open year round; Jean Bradford Kline Senior Center in Eaton Rapids, which offers senior exercise classes weekly Monday, Tuesday and Thursday; the Eaton Area Senior Center in Charlotte that offers multiple fitness opportunities throughout the year; and HealthWorks Fitness Center in Eaton Rapids participates with Silver Sneakers, which offers free membership for qualified applicants. Local high school tracks are also sometimes an option for walking on a level surface, especially if you live on a rural road or don’t trust your balance on your own property.
Dr. Amy Blaising Wallace, author of this article, is a family physician with One Team Family Health in Eaton Rapids, Mich., who sees patients of all ages. Call (517) 663-4809 for more information.