The importance of exercise as you get older

November 12, 2012

The importance of exercise as you get older

Older people who want to remain independent must remain healthy. It has long been known that exercise can help achieve this aim. Adults aged 65 and over are already in the most inactive group. They can be described as sedentary because on average they sit or lie down for more than 10 hours everyday.

This inactivity leads to other issues. A lack of exercise leads to an increased level of obesity, increased risk of heart disease, a higher incidence of people falling over, and more early deaths when compared to the general population. Doing exercise and other activities can assist when trying to stay healthy as you get older. Energetic old people are much more likely to be independent and healthy.

Strong evidence from the scientific community indicates that active individuals are less likely to have a stroke, type two diabetes, some cancers, depression, dementia or heart disease. If you remain with a sedentary lifestyle, then everything that could easily be done before will become more difficult to do. Perhaps going to the shops will become hard work or going to meet friends will be too much bother and you will have too many aches and pains to play with the grandchildren. You will probably feel much more listless and without any energy. This all adds up to a lessening ability to do the things you enjoy and to take care of yourself.

It is not just about doing activities, it is about remaining active too. If you are active then you are a member of the community, your friends and neighbours see you around doing day to day activities. It is now understood that as people get older physical activities can slow the decline in function. Remaining active or even increasing their activity is beneficial to the older person.

Physical Activity – Yes or No?

We must first understand that physical activity gets our bodies moving. Walking is a physical activity, so is swimming or dancing. Shopping or cooking are not physical activities in this case and neither is housework. When your body undertakes moderate-intensity aerobic activity then you will notice a faster heartbeat. Another less technical description is when you can talk the words of a song but cannot sing them means that you are active enough. To obtain the benefits of moderate activity, anyone can walk briskly, play golf, do ballroom dancing or swim leisurely or any other sport or activity the uses a similar amount of energy. Other examples are doing water aerobics, riding a bike on level ground or with few hills, playing doubles tennis or pushing a lawn mower.

Everyday things which are a block to activity include sitting reading, watching TV, using the computer, driving or even just sitting talking. If you want to talk go for a stroll and have your chat then.

How long should I spend on activities?

To get the maximum benefit you should do at least two and a half hours a week of moderate intensity aerobic activity. If you can’t manage that then some activity is better than none. When you do it is up to you. Some people do 30 minutes worth of exercise 5 days a week but some people advocate that it should be a 7 day regime to help you stay active. Others break the 30 minute session into two 15 minute sessions. Lots of shorter sessions does keep you active more and the more time spent doing it, the greater the health gains. Try to change your routine for two days a week to do muscle strengthening exercise. Things such as weight training or heavy gardening are very good.

When you decide that you are going to get started first of all remember to take it slowly. Build up the number of minutes you do each day, if you get too tired then slow down for a while. If you’ve been inactive for a while then begin exercising slowly and gently. You must build up activity slowly to reach the recommended levels and it’s a good idea is to do something that you enjoy.

If you are overweight then your health can improve by meeting the activity guidelines, but to lose weight you may have to do more than 150 minutes per week and change your diet too. And to give encouragement it has been identified that the biggest benefits come to those who start from scratch, just changing your lifestyle from sedentary to moderately active makes the biggest difference to your health. Do more and you will have more health benefits.

If you were active to begin with then perhaps you want to do a bit more. In that case you should know that you can attain the same benefits from 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, this includes running or singles tennis. Generally vigorous-intensity aerobic activity gives similar health benefits moderate-intensity aerobic activity in half the time.

It’s known that older adults who are active minimise their risk of heart disease and stroke to a comparable level as younger people who are active. By improving your health you will reduce your risk of falls and other ailments. Research has shown that the health benefits from a more active lifestyle can always be achieved at any age.


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