22 May Take your workout outdoors to age better
Australians are living longer than ever before. By 2056 it’s estimated that one in four Australians will be over 65 years old.
Many will still be in the workforce or starting to transition from full-time work to having more leisure time available. Either way, staying active and strong enhances participation in activities for everyday living.
As we age it’s important to look after ourselves – physically, mentally and socially. Spending time outdoors is an easy and enjoyable way to do this.
Health challenges for seniors
Lifestyle related conditions and chronic diseases such as diabetes, musculoskeletal issues such as arthritis and osteoporosis, anxiety and depression, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure are significant health concerns for people as they age.
More than half of Australians aged 65 to 84 are overweight or obese and have high blood pressure.
With age can also come loneliness and social isolation, which negatively impacts health outcomes, increasing risk of developing coronary heart disease or stroke.
Why parks are part of the solution
Simply spending time in safe, thriving parks can help us become more active, reduce our stress levels, recover faster from illness or injury, and foster social connections that contribute to our well-being.
Spending time in parks can also have a positive impact on cognitive function, which is a key factor in being able to live independently and enjoy good wellbeing as we age.
Research shows that greener neighbourhoods increase social cohesion – which in turn could reduce cognitive decline and increase health and well-being as we age.
In fact, just 20 to 30 minutes in an urban park can increase happiness and reduce stress levels and lower blood pressure, even without moving around much. This proves that simply being in a park can offer health benefits, regardless of age or physical ability.
Case Study – A walk with a welcome
Across Victoria, seniors and other people who lack confidence to walk alone in a park are being welcomed with open arms. You can go to Welcome Walks in various parks in Melbourne and regional Victoria throughout the year, including Lysterfield Park and Braeside Park in south eastern Melbourne and Bendigo to name a few.
These gentle walks – guided by Parks Victoria volunteers – introduce people to walking in parks to improve their well-being. They help people overcome fear of being in parks, build their confidence to physically tackle a walk, and help build social connections, especially in culturally and linguistically diverse populations.
“I really enjoy the walks. It’s great seeing others walking with me become increasingly confident and comfortable to get out in nature and enjoy the all the benefits that brings” says volunteer, Brenda Schroeders.
Parks Victoria’s tips for getting outside more
- Start by heading to local parks near you. You don’t need to be super fit or have special clothing or equipment – just comfortable walking shoes and a hat.
- Consider your fitness levels and interests then choose a park that is a good match.
- Always consider visiting a park with others. Look for local community groups or walking groups that are right for you.
- Wear suitable clothing, carry a map and plenty of water if you are going for a longer walk.
- If you don’t feel confident getting outdoors and want some support to start walking, join a free guided walk in a park with a volunteer guide or ranger. In Victoria, go to www.nature-walks.eventbrite.com to find walks near you and register.
- Check the relevant website in your state to find out what you can do where, such as bush walking, cycling, walking your dog and more.
To find out more about parks in Victoria go to www.parks.vic.gov.au or call Parks Victoria on 13 19 63.
But what if I fall?
Falling is very real fear for a lot of older Australians. One third of adults aged over 65 fall every year, with 6% of these leading to a fracture. So how can you reduce your risk and increase your confidence?
Your local Exercise Physiologist is a great place to start. They will assess your mobility and movement patterns, and give you exercises that are both safe and individualised to your needs. To find an Accredited Exercise Physiologist near you, visit our website or ask your GP for a referral. You can claim sessions under Medicare and most private health insurers.
“Doing things like balance training can help to reduce your risk of falls” says Accredited Exercise Physiologist Dan Berkelmans. “It’s also important to do regular strength training to reduce muscle loss (sarcopenia) and keep your bones strong.”
By keeping active, you can drastically reduce your risk of falling and improve your overall health and well-being. To learn more or chat to your local Exercise Physiologist, click here.
Written in collaboration with Parks Victoria.