With all the extraordinary breakthroughs in modern medicine, we’ve become a society conditioned to believe there’s a pill for every ill – we are seemingly always looking for the next quick fix.  So believe me, if there was a way to put exercise in a pill, not only would it be the most widely prescribed on the planet, the results it provides would probably seem like magic to most!

It’s time for a new shift in thinking about exercise. While most everyone knows it’s good for them, what few people really understand is just how bad it is if you don’t do it!  Additionally, with regards to exercise and aging specifically, unfortunately the majority of people associate it with living longer versus living better. The reality is, it’s not about how old you are, but rather how are you old that matters most – and exercise definitely plays a key role in aging well and maintaining one’s physical independence too — which actually may be more important than mere longevity. Healthspan is as, if not more important to most than just lifespan!

Generally speaking, “normal” aging isn’t normal at all. It’s actually a choice we make by the way we live our lives. Most aging is sadly associated with sedentary living – meaning there’s a definite difference between aging and disuse.  Prolonged disuse creates premature aging, compromises cardiovascular, musculoskeletal and immunological function, and also increases the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes. This collection of problems can get out of hand in a hurry and ultimately affect one’s day-to-day existence and quality of life.  Yet too many older adults are convinced that exercise won’t benefit them and therefore attribute to normal aging what is often really a result of not being physically healthy or fit.

The good news is it’s never too late to reap the benefits of increased activity – regardless of whatever age you are. By tuning up your body, not only will daily tasks become more manageable, but your body will also be able to fight disease and recuperate more effectively. The truth of the matter is physical activity is paramount to a healthy life – regardless of how long it may be. So how do YOU want to be here long?

While exercise may be optional for younger people, it is virtually imperative for older people. Most everyone should strive for a minimum of thirty minutes a day of walking, running, biking, rowing, swimming or dancing at least three times a week. Golf is also good for you, provided you ditch the cart and walk! Additionally, strength training to maintain muscle mass is equally important, as are stretching and balance exercises.

It’s really no secret that activity and exercise offer significant benefits to a person’s overall health.  Unfortunately, too few physicians talk with patients about it as a remedy to a host of health problems and instead are far more likely to prescribe a pill than a walk around the block.  In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that only 1 in 3 U.S. adults is asked about his or her exercise habits by a physician. The good news however is the biggest gains in the discussion have occurred among adults age 85+, who are encouraged to exercise much more today than they were 10 years ago.

So while it’s always best to check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine, perhaps better yet is to seek out one of these foresight-thinking physicians who are now actually writing prescriptions for exercise, activity and a healthy diet — the best pill on the planet for living well while living long!