A couple of days ago while conversing with a friend, we were discussing his son’s completion of the Singapore marathon, an amazing achievement. During the discussions, I couldn’t help but notice the comment ‘He was trying to convince me to take up marathon running, but I’m 66, there’s no way I can do that!”. This comment got me thinking. How often have you seen new stories on social media where a senior citizen runs a marathon, completed a skydive, or completed a triathlon? I have and I’m sure you have too.
According to the National Institute for Ageing, exercise is good for people of any age and can ease symptoms of many chronic conditions. Contrary to popular belief, weakness and poor balance are linked to inactivity, rather than age. At a certain point, you may be physically incapable of certain exercises for medical reasons, however, if this isn’t the case, then exercise can have amazing benefits to an elderly citizen. Here are the top benefits of exercise for the elderly.
- Adds years to your life
Exercise has been shown to add years to your life. Inactivity and sitting at a desk all day are being termed the ‘new cancer’ because of the negative cardiovascular effects, but regular exercise a few times a week can help add between three and five years to your life.
- Prevents falls
Improving muscle strength and bone density can be helpful in reducing the risk of falls as it can also improve balance. The WHO (the World Health Organisation, not the band) says regular exercise can reduce the risk of having a hip fracture by 40%.
- Reduced risk of stroke or heart attack
Regular cardiovascular exercise, such as brisk walking, cycling, or light housework – anything that raises the heart rate – will increase blood flow to the heart and boost your overall health.
- Improved bone density
Weight-bearing exercise such as walking, or jogging can help increase the strength of bones and reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis and fractures. According to The National Osteoporosis Society, one in two women and one in five men will break a bone due to osteoporosis.
- Reduced risk of developing dementia
Being sedentary in later years can increase the risk of developing dementia, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. The study, which analysed more than 1,600 older adults over five years, found that those who did not exercise were more likely to develop dementia than those who did.
- Mental Health
Exercise is a natural mood enhancer. When you work out, the body releases endorphins that make you feel capable. If you are elderly and fighting the psychological effects of aging, exercise may be the key to giving you drive and energy. A sedentary lifestyle can affect you at any age, but after retirement, the days may seem longer. Take part in an exercise program to help fill some of the hours. An ordinary walk when you feel blue will enhance your spirits. Exercise will also improve cognitive functions. As you age, your memory may not be as clear as it once was. Exercise can help improve mental focus.
If you go about it sensibly, exercising has very few risks, and certainly fewer than results from not being active. If it’s been some time since you exercised, start slowly and see how you get on.
If you get any of the symptoms listed here while you’re exercising, stop and get medical advice – particularly if they don’t go away when you stop.
- Chest pain.
- Pain in your joints.
- Shortness of breath.
- A strong heartbeat (palpitations).
People tend to ‘take it easier’ with each passing year, but I train clients who continually amaze me with their grit, determination, and physical capability.