The sun is out! (Most of the time, anyway.)

Not only is this beautiful Whatcom County sunshine good for the soul, it can be quite good for the body, too.

As people age, we start to become more and more concerned with common health topics, such as arthritis, heart health, brain health and falls. These, in fact, are the most common health issues for seniors.

But there are ways to get out in the sun and help improve each and every one of them:

Exercise to relieve joint pain: Osteoarthritis, often referred to as degenerative joint disease, is a common cause of joint pain. It occurs most often in knees, hips, lower back, neck, fingers and toes (particularly the big one). One of the best ways to fight it is to improve circulation, and one of the best ways to do that is to be physically active.

Many seniors are tempted to stay still, because doing so can alleviate arthritis pain in the short term. Down the road, though, inactivity can contribute to worsening circulation, joints and ligaments. As much as possible, grab a partner or a friend and get out and move. You might even consider joining an adult day health program where there are supervised exercise opportunities.

Lift weights for heart health: The American Heart Association recommends exercise not only as a path to a healthier heart, but as a way to reduce risk factors of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss and cognitive dysfunction. Here are a few heart-healthy exercises, all of which can be done while seated:

  • Lift one leg off the floor until it’s pointed straight out, then hold it there for a few seconds before letting it back down.
  • With a light weight in each hand and a slight bend to your elbows, lift your arms out to your side until they’re parallel to the ground. Let them back down slowly.
  • Lift your knees toward your chest while squeezing your abdominal muscles. Once your feet are a few inches off the ground, hold them there for a few seconds before letting go.

Dance for brain health: Research has shown that lowered blood pressure and an active social life can prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia. One solution? Dance! It’s great for reducing blood pressure, and it helps seniors remain social.

Walk for fall prevention: It may seem counterintuitive to walk more to fall less, but really it’s the only way to build the strength and confidence necessary to prevent falls. One in three older Americans falls every year, and falls are the leading cause of injuries in the elderly. But physical activity can be enormously helpful in preventing falls. As with any activity, seniors always should discuss these issues with their doctors, who will have specific recommendations (perhaps instead of walking, the doctor will recommend water aerobics or physical therapy).

Summer months bring many opportunities for staying active, no matter what your age is. So get out and enjoy the sun and the health benefits of movement!