How to hold onto your independence as you get older

MOVE it... or LOSE it!

When it comes down to it, that's the most important piece of advice I could ever give you -- especially if you're a little older.

Sure, you need to eat right and watch your nutrition. Those are important parts of the "big" picture, including protection from killer conditions such as heart disease.

But if you want to not only live longer but also keep your independence into your 70s, 80s, 90s, and beyond, you need to do something more.

You need to get up on your feet and move around.

New research confirms that the sedentary lifestyle is one of the single biggest risk factors for mobility loss -- and even crippling disability -- in older Americans.

In other words, if you DON'T move it... you WILL lose it!

You may not feel it happening. In fact, you probably won't, since it doesn't happen overnight. It can take years for the damage to sink in, which is why the new study didn't last just a year or two.

It tracked older folks for a full decade, until many of them were in their late 70s and early 80s.

If you move less than three hours per week, you're facing a higher risk of mobility loss when compared to folks who move more often, according to the study.

If you spend too much time watching TV, you're also at risk. Your risk of mobility problems jumps by 65 percent if you're glued to the tube for five or more hours per day.

And if you have both bad habits... if you move less than three hours a week and watch five or more hours of TV per day... you're facing TRIPLE the risk of mobility loss.

This isn't a call to arms to join a gym or sign up for an exercise class. You don't need to learn Jazzercise, Zumba, or Tai chi... and you don't have to become a long-distance runner or take up tennis.

Of course, you certainly CAN do any and all of those things if you enjoy them. But you don't HAVE to -- because the real key to lasting health benefits isn't in some gung-ho workout program.

And the new study confirms it. As you've read right here in House Calls, it's in simply getting on your feet in any way you can.

A casual walk, working in your garden, or just taking care of chores around the home will all count about as much as true "exercise" and help cut your odds of mobility problems and the other risks of a sedentary lifestyle.

If you're looking for another way to keep on your feet, get a dog. The two or three walks a day will force you to keep moving, and a dog is an excellent companion -- especially if you live alone.