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G E RI AT RI C S A Little Sweat Goes a Long Way to Help Seniors Stay Healthy For seniors, even those with physical limitations, engaging in appropriate physical activity on a regular basis is a key to lowering the risk of hospitalization and disability. Among its many benefits, taking part in sweat-inducing exercise approximately 30 minutes a day, five days a week, reduces the risk of falls, a leading cause of emergency room visits and decline in older persons. “Sometimes seniors are afraid to exercise because they fear that they might fall,” says Daina Danovitch, MD, a UCLA geriatrician and family physician. “But, in fact, the reverse is true. Aerobic and particularly strengthening exercises, done appropriately and carefully, improve balance as well as the ability to protect yourself if you begin to fall, reducing the injury associated with any fall that does occur.” Regular aerobic exercise reduces hospitalizations and disability in a host of other ways, Dr. Danovitch notes, including lowering the risk of medical complications such as stroke, aneurysms and renal failure. It improves sugar control and insulin sensitivity for people with diabetes, combats the circulatory problems associated with peripheral vascular disease, and also is associated with improved mood and lower risk of depression. Dr. Danovitch says an ideal exercise program for seniors combines aerobic exercise most days with at least two days a week of strengthening exercises. “Sometimes seniors are intimidated, thinking they are too weak or have medical conditions that prevent them from exercising,” Dr. Danovitch says. “But there is always a starting point that is comfortable, and then you can go from there — setting small goals and building up, little by little.” People shouldn’t feel they need to go to a gym or participate in guided exercises, she says, as UCLAHEALTH.ORG 1-800-UCLA-MD1 (1-800-825-2631)