Nine Reasons Why Seniors Should Be Fit And Active
Staying fit and active is an important factor in living a long and healthy life, whatever your age.
And as we get older, regular exercise and keeping moving leads to better overall health and wellbeing.
In this article, we’ve looked at nine key reasons why seniors should stay fit and active.
Physical activity for older adults is an area that we are incredibly passionate about. Nancy from ElWell is a physiotherapist with a background in elderly rehabilitation and we believe in the importance of getting active to stay fit and healthy.
Gardening is a great way for older adults to stay functionally fit all year long. Read our tips for keen gardeners who are getting older, featuring expert advice from our physiotherapist Nancy and our favourite gardener Claire Vokins.
Why Is It Important For Older Adults To Exercise?
If you need any incentive to see the benefits of keeping fit and active in later life, then the awe-inspiring Captain Tom Moore provides it! Just shy of his 100th birthday, he walked 100 laps of his garden with just the aid of his walker to raise money for the NHS. So far, he’s raised over £30million (beating his £1,000 target!) and shown just how active you can be as you get older. Well done! And if you want to watch him complete his final lap, here’s the video!
Older Adults Have The Most To Gain From Exercise
So why exactly should we keep on exercising as we get older? Well, out of all age groups, seniors (that’s anyone over 65 years) actually have the most to gain from exercise, staying fit and active.
This is because they’re the group that is most likely to lead a more sedentary lifestyle and any change to become more active makes a huge difference to their health. Incorporating an exercise routine into daily life (even just ten minutes a day) can make all the difference. We’ve collated some of our favourite physical activity exercises that you or a loved one can do at home (ideal for lockdown).
It’s Never Too Late To Start Exercising
The above point illustrated why staying fit and active is so important for older people. And the good news here is that it’s never too late to start doing something about this.
Advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) states that the more exercise you do as you get older, the greater the benefits. These guidelines are realistic and the key message is to make a start today as every minute counts.
It’s never too late to start exercising and seeing the benefit on your physical and emotional wellbeing.
Aim to be as active as you are able. If achievable, adults over 65 years’ old should set themselves a goal of:
- at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity a week (when your breathing increases but you can still hold a conversation e.g. a brisk walk or indoor cycle).
- or at least 75 minutes of high intensity aerobic physical activity a week (when you’re breathing fast and it’s difficult to hold a conversation e.g. running).
Joe Wicks, an online personal trainer known as The Body Coach has put together some ten-minute exercise videos to get older adults moving. Check them out and share with your older loved ones.
It Improves Your Strength And Balance
Exercise improves your strength and balance, meaning that you’re less likely to fall over. As we age, we all naturally lose muscle strength. Staying fit and active (and specifically weight-bearing strength and balance exercises done on a regular basis) can help build this muscle strength back up.
A study found that over the course of a year, elderly women following a home based exercise programme showed a 35% reduction in falls. WHO guidelines are based on such evidence and recommend that seniors focus on strength and balance fitness twice a week.
Strength and balance exercises can easily be done at home. They include heel raises, tandem standing, hip abduction or even carrying shopping bags!
If you’re not sure where to start, check out our physiotherapist’s favourite strength and balance exercises for seniors to do at home. No equipment necessary, and suitable for all abilities.
Exercise Is Really Good For People With Type 2 Diabetes
As we get older, our prevalence of developing type 2 diabetes increases.
There are a few factors for this including: weight, how inactive a lifestyle you lead and the fact that as we age, our blood sugar levels rise (likely as levels of insulin reduce).
Refular exercise can help with all these factors. By staying fit and active, we experience an increase in our energy levels which helps us to maintain weight.
Physical activity also means that we are better able to control blood sugar levels. This is because exercise increases our insulin sensitivity, helping your body use the insulin you do have to absorb sugar from the blood which is then used as energy. Regular exercise also helps your cells use glucose (blood sugar) for energy, even when there is no insulin.
Staying Active Helps Your Heart
Active seniors can reduce their risk of heart disease to a similar level as younger people who are fit and well. Isn’t that amazing?
The heart is a muscle and like all muscles, exercising regularly helps to keep it strong. A stronger heart means that your heart rate lowers because fewer beats are required to pump the same amount of blood around the body. That’s one hearty reason to start regular exercise!
Keeping Fit Is Good For The Brain
Do you know what’s one of the best things to do to keep dementia at bay? Aerobic physical activity!
Aerobic physical activity may sound like a strange term but actually it just means any exercise that gets your heart beating faster (cardiovascular exercise). This includes exercise like brisk walking, jogging, cycling or swimming.
The evidence from a range of clinical studies suggests that regular exercise can lower the risk by as much as 30% (rising to 45% when looking at Alzheimer’s disease specifically). When we’re fit and active, more blood flows to the brain and can help to stimulate brain cell growth, improving memory and attention span.
Endorphins Help With Stress
When we exercise we produce endorphins. These are our body’s natural painkillers and mood brighteners. At the same time, we reduce the amount of adrenaline and cortisol in our body, both of which are linked to stress and anxiety. This is a huge benefit, especially during an uncertain time like lockdown when stress levels can rise. We’ve written about emotional and mental wellbeing in older adults during lockdown in another article.
Keeping Active Can Help With Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease
Over 90% of people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease are over 60 years of age. Maintaining activity levels are key to treatment – it helps people maintain strength and balance and mobility, and improve quality of life.
Once people with Parkinson’s become sedentary it can be hard to reverse the impact of the disease. This is a good article from Parkinson’s UK about staying active with Parkinson’s.
The more active we are, the better we seem to sleep. Research suggests that physical aerobic activity helps our brain to refresh and rejuvenate. This is because when we exercise, we then in return get more deep sleep during our sleep cycle. Sleeping well also improves our mental wellbeing, again showing that regular exercise not only benefits our physical but our mental health.
On average, seniors spend 10 hours or more per day sitting or lying down, making them the most sedentary group. And during lockdown and self-isolation, this number is likely to increase.
Going from inactive to active and incorporating regular exercise into your daily routine (whether that’s as little as ten minutes per day), can have a positive impact on seniors’ health and wellbeing and improve quality of life.
We hope you found these reasons why older adults should stay fit and active helpful. Leave us a comment below!
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