As residents of our thriving community, we are truly fortunate to live in a place that allows us to be active. We can go for a swim or visit a nearby gym. We can bike and play tennis, squash or golf at our many city parks. We can stroll through the Denver Botanic Gardens or do some gardening of our own. Without a doubt, Denver and the nearby mountains are a hiker’s paradise.
There’s plenty of information out there on the benefits of exercise. Most of us know that physical activity is essential for maintaining a healthy weight and reducing the risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. As an added benefit, staying active promotes mental and emotional wellbeing by increasing focus and mental clarity, improving our state of relaxation, and even staving off dementia.
Two interesting studies have recently shown that exercise is about as close as we can get to the fountain of youth. The University of Birmingham in London compared a group of older adults who engaged in physical activity most of their lives to a group of sedentary younger adults. Amazingly, the active older adults had the immune systems and muscle mass of the younger group. The study also showed that cholesterol and fat percentage did not increase with aging in those who continued to be physically active. A second study done by the University of Cambridge found that individuals who started exercising two and a half hours every week, even when starting later in life, reduced their risk for early death.
What kind of exercise is best?
The experts at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend that adults engage in a minimum of 150 minutes per week of aerobic exercise, such was walking, swimming or biking. The exercise should be of “moderate intensity”, meaning your heart rate and breathing should be elevated, and you should sweat slightly. They also recommend muscle strengthening exercises at least twice a week. This improves metabolic function, reduces your risk of falls, and, when you exercise your muscles, you also increase the density and strength of your bones. If lifting weights is too much of a challenge, try elastic bands (you can purchase online or find them in most gyms), or simply use your body weight by including exercises such as squats, lunges, planks, push-ups and pull-ups in your workout. It’s a fantastic way to stay in shape.
And, if you think exercise is boring… why not make it fun?! It’s always the perfect time of year to get outside to stretch your legs, get some sunshine and breathe in some of that amazing Colorado fresh air. Being out in nature is restful, rejuvenating, and clears out the cobwebs when we need to refocus and be productive. If you’re concerned about the various viruses in the community, we encourage you to adhere to normal safe practices with individuals who are likely contagious and get your vaccines, but to share these moments with folks both close to you and new friends as well. Population immunity against current COVID strains has improved tremendously due to infection and vaccination, but the same ol’ germ rules still apply that we learned in kindergarten. So, remember to stay active and have some fun while we protect ourselves and each other.
Be well and take good care.