Your 50 Top Health Questions Answered

14. OK — more healthy foods, a good doctor and watch the pills. What’s another lifestyle change I can make today that will help the most?

Go for a walk. Being sedentary, with low overall fitness, raises your mortality risk as much as, or more than, smoking, high blood pressure and heart disease. An analysis of studies on people ages 54 to 65 found that binge-watching TV for four-plus hours a day may make you 35 percent more likely to develop blood clots in the thigh and lower leg. 

15. Is that all I need for exercise — a long walk?

Yes and no. Research has shown that moderate activity such as walking has excellent health benefits, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week. Just over 20 minutes of brisk walking each day gets you there. “Doing the same activity every day over time has benefits, but changing it up could have more benefits,” notes Jordan Metzl, M.D., a sports medicine specialist at New York City’s Hospital for Special Surgery. “Doing a variety of activities, particularly as you get older, will challenge your body, lead to greater fitness and health benefits and help you avoid injuries.” He recommends swapping in weight training, swimming or biking, and yoga.

16. I hate gyms, loud music and sweaty people. What else can I do to preserve mobility?

Play tennis or pickleball. “Mobility is all about the lower body, and your entire lower body is interconnected,” Metzl says. Unlike, say, running or biking, tennis moves you in every direction, challenging your hips, glutes and legs from a variety of angles. Basketball is another option. Plus, first thing in the morning, do some multidirectional lunges (forward, side to side, and backward).

17. Hmm, still a little sweaty. What’s a 100 percent sweat-free way to improve my health?

Floss your teeth every day. According to the 2019 Global Burden of Disease survey, untreated oral diseases caused people ages 50 to 74 worldwide to suffer a collective 8 million years of life “with disability” in 2019.

18. What’s a worthwhile fitness goal for people in their 50s?

If you dream of running a marathon, that’s great. But there’s a simpler goal within such big goals as well, Metzl says: “Just start exercising, and don’t stop. Build a foundation, and keep building with the next 30 years in mind. Then you can set more specific goals.”  

19. I’ve been exercising but haven’t lost any weight. It feels pointless.

Weight loss comes primarily from eating healthier food and fewer junk calories. What exercise does is dramatically lower your risk of age-related health issues, from bone loss to heart disease to back pain, Metzl explains.