13 Sep How to age actively as we get older
Being physically active is important for all ages. That importance doesn’t diminish as we get older, but our activity levels tend to.
The Australian population is ageing, and with older age comes greater incidence of chronic illness and disease. More than three-quarters of Australians aged over 65 years have at least one chronic condition and chronic disease is a leading cause of disability in older adults.
Research shows that just 30 minutes a day of physical activity can have numerous benefits, including delaying many chronic, age associated physical and cognitive declines, but being active as we get older may seem challenging.
Here’s what differences that 30 minutes a day can make to our health and well-being as we get older:
We stay socially connected
A loss of physical functional ability is common as we age, which often makes it difficult to get out and maintain our social connections. Community-based exercise programs provide a safe and supportive and motivational environment to build and maintain relationships and self-confidence. Research found that older adults maintain a community-based exercise program primarily due to the social support and sense of belonging they receive, therefore they are more likely to maintain exercise habits in a social setting.
We have a reduced risk of developing chronic diseases, and exercise helps manage any you may already have
Physical activity lowers risk of chronic conditions such as dementia, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis and cancers, to name a few. As well as this physical activity also helps manage symptoms of any chronic diseases you may have e.g. helping to control blood sugar levels for those with diabetes, or chronic pain such as osteoarthritis.
Our memory and brain function improves
Keeping a healthy body is imperative to keeping a healthy mind. Regular exercise boosts oxygen to the brain and in turn can improve memory, and reaction times. Physical activity in mid-later life has also been shown to reduce risks of dementia and cognitive decline.
Our independence increases
Strength is essential to daily functioning. The stronger our bodies are, the less assistance we will need. Muscle strength can decline by 15% per decade after age 50 and 30% per decade after age 70, so it is important to implement strength and resistance exercises into your daily living to maintain muscle strength as much as possible.
We have a reduced risk of falls
Every year 1 in 3 people over the age of 65 will have a fall, and falls are the most common cause of injury among older people. Physical activity improves balance and coordination and in turn can minimise the risk of falls. Here are some specific falls prevention exercises, that you may want to try with a friend or family member.
Your bones get stronger
As we age, the focus is addressing risk factors for frailty and falls. Bone strength effectively can be addressed through different types of exercise. Ultimately, bones become stronger when a certain amount of load is placed on them. Here are some exercises recompensed to strengthen bones.
You recover from illness more quickly
A strong and healthy body fights off infections and sickness more quickly, and recovery from an illness will take less of a toll on your body if you exercise regularly.
How to find the right exercise for you:
- Think about what you currently enjoy or used to enjoy doing, can you implement these activities again?
- Think about any physical activities you always wanted to try, but never did. The saying you can’t teach an old dog new tricks is just not true! It’s never too late to try something new.
- Be realistic about what you may or may not be able to participate in.
Some examples of how you can add more physical activity into your life:
- Art and craft classes
- Community exercise groups – many local councils often provide free or low-cost exercise classes and fitness programs for older people
- Travel and day trips
- Low impact sport e.g. bowls, croquet
- Clubs and groups, e.g. local walking groups, ballroom dancing
- Walk around the golf course instead of getting the cart
- Walk up and down every aisle when doing the groceries
Tips to exercise right and age actively:
- Visit your doctor for a check-up before starting a new physical exercise routine to make sure their aren’t any underlying health issues that may impact your ability to do certain physical activities.
- Seek the advice of an exercise professional, such as an Accredited Exercise Physiologist, before starting a new exercise program, you may want to engage in their services on a one-on-one basis.
- Always stop and get medical advice if you feel unwell whilst exercising.