– Written by Siel Bleu
Exercise is an activity typically associated with younger generations. When we think of exercise we might think of a big, beefy guy lifting weights in the gym, a young, healthy woman playing tennis or children kicking a ball around their local green. There is a common misconception that exercise is not for us as we get older, but that could not be further from the truth. Exercise and physical activity are vital activities at all life stages and this does not discount older age. Here are 5 reasons to adopt an exercise programme as you get older.
1. Physical Benefits
This might be the most obvious of all the reasons to adopt an exercise programme as we get older, but hear me out. We often think, if we have a pain, ailment or injury, that it would be best to not exercise, for fear of making it worse. This is incorrect! The old saying of “use it or lose it” might seem a little on the nose, but it’s actually true. Physical activity and exercise actually help to make common pains and ailments better. By moving joints, we are creating a lubricant which can help to ease the discomfort of moving. This of course is subject to guidance by an expert such as a physical trainer or a physiotherapist, but movement is key to making these little pains get better before they become big pains.
Exercise also helps us to increase our ability to carry out daily tasks. By building strength and flexibility in our shoulders, we are able to move them with ease and that will help with tasks such as putting a plate back on a high shelf, or getting a tea bag out of a high cupboard. We call these tasks “activities of daily living”. Exercise is vital to ensure we can continue with activities of daily living. By strengthening our leg muscles, this can help to ensure we are able to stand up out of a chair without needing assistance. Simple exercises like straightening your leg in a chair can help to do this. Strengthening your core can also help hugely.
2. Social Benefits
Exercise does not need to be a solitary activity. The prevalence of social isolation and loneliness amongst older adults is constantly increasing, but exercise is a great way to keep loneliness at bay. The majority of exercise classes for older adults take place in a group setting, whether in your local gym or community centre. This provides a fantastic opportunity to be social while doing a beneficial activity.
By adopting an exercise programme, we become more physically fit, which leads to more confidence in our own abilities. This will allow us to get out and meet people and retain or maintain our social connections. With an increased confidence we are able to join our family on outings, meet friends for a coffee or walk to the local shop for the paper.
3. Mental Health Benefits
When you combine physical wellbeing and social benefits it will results in improved mental health. Feeling more physically able to get out and meet our friends/family makes us happier. Being physically able to ensure your independence will also help to improve your mental health.
Exercise releases chemicals in the brain called endorphins. These chemicals interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body. So, exercise does makes you happy!
4. Exercise can prevent or delay disease
One of the greatest benefits of exercise as we age is the prevention and delay of disease. Physical inactivity is one of the key contributing factors to over 35 chronic diseases including some cancers, strokes and dementia. By practising regular physical activity or exercise, we are enabling our bodies to fight off the onset of disease and keep us healthy, as we get older.
But what if we already have a disease? Did you know exercise can help with secondary prevention, which is preventing the further onset of a disease? Take Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) for example. A person living with COPD may feel they are unable to exercise due to the breathlessness of the disease. However exercise can help to delay any further onset of COPD, in some cases it can actually improve their condition.
5. Exercise doesn’t have to be hard or strenuous
A common concern of older adults before they take up exercise, is that it might be too hard or too much for them. For a large number of older adults, exercise might strike up recollections of having to play hockey in the rain, or climbing up a rope during PE; this might be the last time that they did any type of exercises. If we these are the memories of exercise we have, of course they will appear very strenuous and daunting.
Exercise doesn’t need to mean going to the gym and lifting 50kg weights. Instead, exercise for older adults can be effecting, even if it’s not too strenuous. For example, taking a walk can help us to reach our 150 minutes of recommended exercise per week. If you can still hold a conversation while walking, then that is the optimum pace, no need to be too strenuous. Simple actions can have a big impact on your health. Why not try an exercise class designed for the older adult, where they will let you go at your own pace?
For more information about Siel Bleu and our exercise programmes for older adults check out www.sielbleu.ie or call 01 209 6889
***Disclaimer: The information in this post is for reference only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical expertise or advice. If you have any concerns about your own or another’s health then please contact your doctor.
- Alzheimer's and Dementia
- Dental Health
- Elder Abuse
- Entitlements for Older People
- Expert Interviews
- Eye Problems
- Heart Health
- Hip Problems
- Home Care
- Multigenerational housing
- Nursing Homes