February is heart month. Keeping healthy in general is particularly important during the cold winter months and as we get set to welcome spring. Self care such as proactive exercising is a vital part of maintaining a positive quality of life.


Most people today are aware of the heart health benefits of physical activity. Take walk or drive through your home town and you’ll note that young people today are likely to make regular exercise part of their daily routine. Are their parents and grandparents taking advantage of these benefits? If you’ve resembled a couch potato for most of your life, and you’ve just celebrated your 65th birthday … or 75th, or 85th, or beyond there is good news! It is not too late to add heart healthy movement to your everyday life.

A study headed by Dr. Chiadi Ndumele, a cardiologist and assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, states that it’s never too late to reap the heart health benefits of exercise. “Our findings suggest that when it comes to exercise and heart failure, the better-late-than-never axiom rings particularly true.” Stated Dr. Ndumele

Dr. Ndumele and his team studied the heart health and exercise routines of thousands of people. They found that those who followed a lifelong fitness program were the best off—33 percent less likely to develop heart failure than people who never exercised. The team found that people who took up the exercise habit later in life could also significantly lower their risk., Dr. Roberta Florido, another Johns Hopkins cardiologist says “Our findings demonstrate that every little bit of movement matters, and that picking up exercise later in life is decidedly better than not moving at all.”

So, where should you begin in turning over this new leaf? It is important to speak with your doctor before beginning any exercise program. Ask which activities may be safe and what you should avoid with your particular health concerns. Discuss the types of activity which may be fun and enjoyable to you. Look for ways to incorporate exercise into your day such as parking further from the door of your destination. Consider taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Dancing, jumping rope, sports, tag or other playtime activities with loved ones are ways to sneak cardio exercise into your schedule. Look into exercises in the following areas as a guide:

Aerobic activity-increases heart rate and breathing, bringing more oxygen to the body (for example: walking, dancing).

Muscle strengthening and flexibility exercises– keep muscles and ligaments strong (for example: stretching, lifting weights).

Balance training – Helps prevent falls and enhance confidence in exercising (for example: balance classes, tai chi).

You can find exercise programs at senior centers, health clubs and local parks recreation department. Many senior living communities have cardiac fitness programs available. Many internet programs assist people in getting cardio at home with fun interactive games. Research shows that as little of 30 minutes of exercise a day can boost our general health and well-being .

Protecting your heart is only one way exercise will benefit you. Exercise helps reduce the risk and manage a wide range of health conditions—a short list includes diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, lung disease, depression, certain cancers and obesity. Added perks are stress reduction, mood boosting endorphins, improved focus, increased productivity and even memory improvement.

A point of great interest to those of us who are growing older is that many studies strongly suggest that exercise has been found to reduce dementia risk and potentially slow the progression of memory loss, even among people who have already been diagnosed or are at higher genetic risk.

Source: IlluminAge AgeWise, reporting on study from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine