In this weeks post I’ll share why it is vital for an aging population to understand how exercise can prepare their mind and body by decreasing risks of disease and health related issues.
Learn what it takes to exercise safely and effectively by maintain a healthy and active lifestyle into older age.
As we get older, the importance of keeping fit and health is absolutely vital towards maintaining independence and quality of life. Unfortunately, it is common to see many different diseases and ongoing health issues plague our aging population. So what can be done to help influence older adults in their decision to improve and maintain their overall health, fitness and daily living activities?
Often the issue lies with education and accessibility of information regarding this topic. The perception towards exercise with older adults often see themselves as ‘too old’ or ‘too frail’ to undertake in physical activity when some believe that their retirement years should be spent only resting and relaxing. It is a possibility that information spread through word of mouth containing a negative connotation against exercise may increase inactivity within communities such as retirement villages and social clubs. Older adults should see exercise and physical activity as an opportunity and not an inconvenience.
The world’s aging population is ever growing, therefore improving the physical, mental, and social health of older people is a major priority for the future. Research has indicated that performing regular exercise sessions will cause improvements in fitness, strength, flexibility, balance, enhanced mood and life satisfaction, improved self confidence, positive self-esteem and decrease levels of stress, anxiety and depression.
The types of exercise opportunities present to older adults often differ in relation to funding provided in your location for facilities and personnel to supervise or instruct. It is important for older adults to be aware of the exercise and physical activity opportunities they have available to them including incidental, balance, flexibility, strength, aerobic and hydrotherapy activities that can be either performed under supervision in a gym, unaccompanied in their own home or in a public place.
There are specific recommendations and guidelines for older adults to help maintain healthy living or manage ongoing health issues. The ‘baby boomer’ generation often experience increased risks of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type II diabetes, cancer, arthritis and osteoporosis. Research has found that up to 85% of older adults reported said that they have at least one chronic disease effecting their well-being. In addition, a major decline in muscle mass, known as ‘sarcopenia’ is prevalent in older adults who are inactive or undertake only low levels of physical activity. This can contribute to an increase in the risk of falls and decrease independence causing deterioration in quality of life where regular assistance of daily living is required.
So to what extent can exercise and physical activity can influence the aging process? The benefits of both long-term exercise and physical activity and shorter-duration exercise programs on health and functional capacity are well known for the majority of the population but are not discussed as extensively in regards to an aging community.
In Australia, less than 50% of people aged 65 years and older complete 150 minutes of moderate to high levels of physical activity per week to produce health benefits. In contrast, 30% of older adults are completely inactive. The American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines recommend that older adults should take part in at least 30 minutes of cumulative moderate intensity physical activity for up to 5 days per week as a minimum to achieve health and well-being benefits. Regardless of age, weight, health problems or abilities, it is encouraged to take part in some form of physical activity, although it is highly recommended that you visit a general practitioner or doctor prior to commencement of any structured physical activity or exercise program.
Inactivity should be avoided at all costs. Any type and duration of physical activity is better than none and will allow for some gain in health benefits, however, additional benefits occur with progression by increasing frequency, duration and intensity of exercise. If you cannot complete 150 min of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week because of chronic conditions, you can continue to be physically active to an extent where your abilities and conditions allow, for instance, only when you are free of pain.
Physical activity acceptable for an aging population can consist of leisure-time activity, sport, activities of daily living involving housework, gardening and transportation and even structured aerobic exercise including walking, cycling, hydrotherapy and water exercise.
Multidimensional exercises or compound exercises, including exercises that move over multiple joints are most effective when improving overall physical function. Aerobic exercise incorporating activities on treadmills, stationary bicycles and rowing machines are also suitable. Functional exercises are extremely encouraged and should be the pinnacle of a strength program which includes sit-to-stand, step-ups and timed up and go walking exercises.
An exercise program for older adults should always comprise of several different components including aerobic and cardiovascular endurance to increasing the working efficiency of the heart, muscle and bone resistance exercises to strengthen bone structure and muscle contraction, flexibility to allows limbs and joints to move with a greater range of motion and balance to reduce the risk of falls and increase stability of the body.
Encouragement to often needed to help assist with a change in lifestyle, therefore it is considered that an increased emphasis on group exercise participation for older adults would be effective. The outcome of participating in such activities include, positive social interaction and relationship building in a supportive environment, having an optimistic state of mind and sense of well-being and accomplishment, allowing to maintain independence and preventing future health problems.
Marc Dressen, MSc
Personal Trainer London
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