Learn how activity can help slow the effects of aging.

By Tim CollinsThere are an endless number of reasons why you should stay active as you age. Here are six really good ones:1. Exercise helps you maintain independence.

Perhaps the most important reason to stay active is that it allows you to maintain your ability to do the things you love doing—whether that’s walking, gardening or simply keeping up with the family. The fact is that too many people become indisposed to varying degrees later in life. Keep fit, however, and you’ll be able to live a full and independent life.

2. It reduces the risk of osteoporosis. 

Osteoporosis affects millions of people, and millions more are at risk of being afflicted with this common age-related illness caused by low bone mass. Exercise—particularly weight-bearing activity—increases the strength of your bones.

3. It increases metabolism and helps control your weight.

Metabolism is the rate at which your body is able to break down and use the nutrients received from food. Exercise increases your metabolic rate, which means your body burns more calories.

4. It improves flexibility.

As we get older, our bodies become less flexible. But activity—jogging, swimming, even walking—puts your body through a full range of movement, which will help maintain flexibility. Any activity helps; from formal exercise to normal, every day activities, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or using a rake instead of a leaf blower.

5. It boosts your social life.

Attending an exercise class can help expand your social circles because it exposes you to different groups of people. Plus, exercise helps boost your confidence, which may be just what you need to start up a conversation with someone new. Check out your community center or local health club for special exercise groups for seniors. You can also recruit your friends to join you.

6. It allows you to do good.

Inactivity increases the risk for a laundry list of diseases, which makes it more likely that you’ll need to be taken care of by other people—family members, friends and medical professionals. If you stay active, however, you’ll be able to focus on helping others. Using your time (and all that extra energy!) for volunteering provides a two-for-one benefit. It obviously helps the person on the receiving end of your good deed, but it also helps keep you healthy. Experts at Rotman Research Institute in Canada analyzed data from 73 studies covering a time span of nearly 50 years, focusing on people aged 50 or over, all of whom formally volunteered with a charity or similar organization. They found that volunteering was associated with lower rates of depression, longevity and better health overall.

For more tips on how to volunteer and other do-good opportunities, as well as further info on the study from the Rotman Research Institute, check out this recent article in The Saga Magazine.

There are many perks of retirement, including having more time to do the things you struggled to squeeze in when you were younger. Use that time to exercise, meet new friends and volunteer, and you’ll likely stay healthy well into your golden years.