The temperature is rising, leaves are turning green and flowers are blooming – spring is here! This time of year is ideal to start your transformation, too, by increasing your physical activity.

There is no step too small when it comes to increasing activity and getting moving—start where you are and add in some simple changes that will lead to great benefits. You can go to DC Parks and Recreation centers for free (for DC residents), or try these ideas:

  • Walking with friends – find a group to walk around the block with, take the long way to church, the grocery store, or on other errands!
  • Taking the stairs – stair climbing exercises the same muscles necessary for keeping your balance while rising from a chair, so it is important to keep these muscles strong.
  • Signing up for aerobics or yoga classes at a senior or community center – these classes emphasize cardiovascular health and flexibility – both important for endurance and safety.
  • Getting an exercise “buddy” or join a club – the support is helpful for staying on track, even when you don’t feel like exercising.
  • Making little changes that add up – parking farther away from the entrance and walk the extra distance – every little bit helps.
  • Finding dance classes – ballroom dancing improves flexibility and balance; square dancing and aerobic dancing improves cardiovascular fitness.
  • Exercising at home with exercise programs on TV, or with a DVD or home workout video.
  • Swimming – check into the local YMCA, community colleges, fitness centers or gyms.

Whatever you choose to do, be safe by wearing proper shoes, staying hydrated, and stretching before and after your activity. Taking the time to increase your activity level can improve your body, mind and spirit, as well as these health benefits:

  • It can help prevent bone loss (reducing the risk of fractures) and reduces the risk of many diseases associated with aging.
  • It increases muscle strength and may improve balance and coordination, which can reduce the likelihood of falling. It also increases the ability for basic living, making it easier to carry grocery bags, get up from a chair and take care of household chores. Being physically active is a real key in maintaining quality of life and independence.
  • Elderly men with high blood pressure can lower their risk of death with even moderate levels of fitness compared to those who were less fit.
  • Studies have shown that increased levels of physical activity are associated with a reduced incidence of coronary heart disease, hypertension, non-insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, depression and anxiety.
  • Active people with high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes or other chronic diseases are less likely to die prematurely than inactive people with these conditions.
  • Fitness can have a positive impact on health regardless of age or the presence of chronic illness.