02 June 2017
On the Move
It’s no new news to anyone that exercise is important to your overall health – both mental and physical. However, as we age, we often find ourselves being less active when exercise finds itself being even more critical. Physical activity, even at the most moderate levels, may improve the health of those who already have diseases and disabilities, which in turn maintains one’s ability to remain independent and mobile.
The Inactivity Zone
Too often, older adults use the excuse that they shouldn’t exercise because it’s too risky. Yet, the only thing that’s risky is not moving. When older individuals become immobile, it typically isn’t because of an age-related condition, but instead because they have become inactive. Unfortunately, this leads to a cyclical effect: less exercise leads to more doctor visits and illnesses; more doctor visits and illness leads to less exercise and physical activity.
Fortunately, this unhealthy cycle is preventable. Besides preventing or delaying disease, it can even prove to be an effective treatment for chronic conditions and disabilities. This includes arthritis, diabetes, colon cancer or heart disease.
When staying mobile and independent in one’s own home is especially paramount, physical activity can help improve one’s balance and walking as well as their cognitive function. Some studies suggest that exercise may even reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. It can also reduce feelings of depression and stress, which often strains older adults living alone.
While participating in a routine exercise class or regiment is an excellent habit, physical activity can include anything that gets your body moving. This could include gardening, walking to the store by parking in the furthest spot or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
That doesn’t mean that older adults cannot take on exercise programs. There are a number of programs that provide a multitude of health benefits without “overdoing” it. The ideal exercise program typically consists of three components, which can still be completed by someone of an advanced age: aerobic/endurance, strength/resistance, stretching/flexibility.
- Aerobic/endurance: 30 minutes per day of a cardiorespiratory activity that increases your heart rate, such as walking, swimming or cycling. If easier, this can be split into multiple sessions, such as two 15-minute or three 10-minute activities, especially for those just getting started.
- Strength/resistance: 2-3 times per week of a strength training or calisthenics. This can include lifting weights to lunges or sit-ups. However, be sure to focus on different muscles on different days and gradually increase reps or weights over time. Strength training prevents loss of bone mass and improves balance, which is especially important to prevent seniors from falling.
- Stretching/Flexibility: pertinent to every exercise, stretching helps muscles warm up and cool down gradually to prevent injury and reduce muscle soreness. Specific exercises can also be used to isolate muscle groups. For instance, yoga may be used to strengthen one’s core. A strong core improves movement, posture and mobility.
No matter your age, there is no disadvantage to staying active. By starting at a younger age, regular activity becomes habitual and a part of living a healthier life. Many people wait until they have a goal - losing weight or becoming stronger – before they put steps forward to a healthier, more active lifestyle. Instead, each day should be as active as possible to ensure a longer and healthier life.
And of course, if mobility every becomes a challenge, Handicare is always here to help, offering a number of stairlift options and solutions to ensure everyone has the ability to age in place safely and independently.