Healthy Tips for Elders

Saying “Yes” to Physical Activity

As we look at the ways to “choose full life,” there is one choice that is critical and, if neglected, will invite disease and death. That choice is physical activity. Studies have shown the benefits of physical activity, especially in the fresh air and sunlight. Some of the documented benefits are:

  • Reduces heart disease by 50 percent
  • Reduces stroke by 33 percent
  • Reduces diabetes by 50 percent
  • Builds strong bones and prevents fractures
  • Improves immunity
  • Increases energy
  • Reduces risks for dementia and cognitive decline
  • Assists in maintaining a healthy weight
  • Prevents and helps reverse anxiety and depression
  • Adds years to one’s life and reduces mortality
  • Improves well-being and quality of life

In fact, the benefits are so great that people who are physically active and fit, even if they smoke or are overweight, have similar mortality rates when compared to those who do not smoke or who have a healthy weight but are not physically active or fit.

Yet, on average, less than 20 percent of adults and 8 percent of children get the recommended amount of exercise each week. Current guidelines recommend that adults be active for 30 minutes or more, while children and adolescents need 60 minutes or more each day, at least 5 days a week.

Are you meeting that recommendation? No matter what hereditary conditions or current diagnosis you may have, physical activity will help prevent or treat disease, and you will live a more fulfilling, happier life. Health-care providers prescribe exercise as medicine because (besides cutting the risk for disease), physical activity has been shown to be a very effective treatment for many chronic diseases today.

The reverse is also true. Inactivity has been shown to increase mortality from any cause. The greater the number of hours you spend sitting is equally proportional to an increased mortality rate. Thus, finding ways to get up for 5 minutes for every 60 minutes you spend sitting can make a big difference. If you work in an office, you may choose to have a “walking” meeting rather than a “sitting” meeting, or you can pace in the room when you are on the phone. Some people have adapted their offices so that they can walk while working on the computer.

As children of God, we are called to make healthy choices and encourage others to take care of their bodies. Being physically active is a way to take care of God’s temple and worship Him with our bodies (Rom. 12:1).

Inspiration says, “All who can possibly do so ought to walk in the open air every day, summer and winter. A walk, even in winter, would be more beneficial to the health than all the medicine the doctors may prescribe.”1 Science is now proving this statement, which was written more than 100 years ago. Why wait? You can start today!

 The world is trying to reverse the trend of chronic disease. As an elder and spiritual leader, you can encourage your church to meet this need by becoming a center for health, healing, and wholeness in the community, teaching people to say “Yes” to physical activity.2 Why this is important? Because our “mental and spiritual vigor are in great degree dependent upon physical strength and activity; and whatever promotes physical health, promotes the development of a strong mind and well-balanced character.”3

1 Ellen G. White, Counsels on Health, 52.
2 For more information on how to make activity fun and keep track of times and distances, visit
3 Ellen G. White, Education, 195. Emphasis supplied.

Katia Reinert is director of the Health Ministries Department for the North American Division.