By. Bren Boston, MD
Why should you try community-based exercise? Even for people who think they don’t like to exercise, community-based exercise has lots of benefits. Positive social interactions and accountability are high on the list. When you meet a group of people who are looking forward to you showing up every week (for a group walk or a class at the local recreation center, for example), it makes it more likely that you will prioritize that exercise. It can improve your mood, quality of life, and self-esteem. Research has shown that older adults are more likely to adhere to a regular exercise regimen if it provides social support and a sense of belonging.
Regular exercise is associated with improved cardiovascular health, longevity, lean body mass, bone mineral density, reduced risk of falls, improved functioning, and greater likelihood of being able to live independently longer. Exercise can reduce the negative consequences of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Muscle mass and strength tend to reduce 30-50% between the ages of 30 and 80, and exercise can prevent this loss. Even for older adults with osteoarthritis, their functioning is improved, not worsened, with regular exercise.
Exercise can be a fun part of your week that just happens to be good for you, and becoming involved in your community is a great way to get hooked. Some ideas are to contact your local parks and recreation center, the local YMCA, and neighborhood gathering places for exercise. Lots of people will meet up at the Santa Monica or Culver City stairs to do a free workout just walking up and down. There are groups that form to train for 5K’s and other races that benefit charities. I met several friends through a program at my local park for new moms to exercise while their baby was in a stroller. I definitely looked forward to having conversations with other moms while I got a good work out. There are several online exercise communities that can be easily accessed, like Team Beach Body. Not every exercise is a good fit for every individual. I recommend that you discuss your ideas about exercise with your physician to make sure you are cleared medically to participate.