Keeping Active: Benefits of Exercise in Older Adults

by | Jan 14, 2020

We are now halfway through January. This is the time when the motivation of a New Year begins to dwindle and resolutions fall by the wayside. For those of you over the age of 65, who pledged to be more active this year, we wanted to give you a little boost. Here are some of the benefits of exercise in older adults, to hopefully inspire you and keep you focused on your goals!

According to the NHS, many adults over the age of 65 spend, on average, 10 hours or more each day sitting or lying down. Lack of activity can not only cause health problems, but it can also make simple everyday tasks harder, which can lead to a loss of independence. A phrase often used in regards to this is “use it, or lose it”.

 

Benefits of exercise in older adults

There are many health benefits of keeping active. Some of these include lowering your risk of:

  • Heart Disease
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Stroke
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Some Cancers (such as Breast & Bowel Cancer)
  • Back Pain
  • Dementia
  • Depression
  • Osteoporosis (weakening of bones)
  • Osteoarthritis (painful & stiff joints)

If these aren’t enough to inspire you to be active there are also other benefits. You will find that by keeping active, your strength and muscle tone will improve, helping to reduce your risk of having an accident or fall. Research has also shown that exercise can help with how well your brain works, including your memory. Mental health and a sense of wellbeing can come from being physically active, and social exercise (such as dance classes) can help with feelings of loneliness.

Exercise can even help some individuals with conditions such as Parkinson’s to delay the progression of their symptoms.

 

What can you do?

Keeping active isn’t just about exercise. Anything that keeps your body moving will help over time. Simple things such as getting up every hour to make a drink, or to do light household chores can make a difference.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests that adults over the age of 65 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week. They also state that for older adults who are unable to do the recommended amounts of physical activity due to health conditions, they should be as physically active as they are able.

This is all well and good, but what types of exercises are suitable?

 

old lady in swimming pool looking at the camera

Exercises for older adults

  • Swimming (gradually increasing your lengths or speed)
  • Aqua aerobics
  • Walking briskly (or at whatever pace you can manage)
  • Cycling
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Tai Chi
  • Resistance bands workouts
  • Gentle weights
  • Aerobics or dance classes
  • Gardening
  • Mowing the lawn

For those who have decreased strength or mobility, there are also options that can be done from an armchair.

Seated exercises

  • Repetitive movements that will help posture and balance (eg. spine extensions, shoulder circles)
  • Using resistance bands
  • Light hand weights

If you know the type of exercise you would like to do but don’t know how to start you can find many videos online. On YouTube, you can find videos from yoga instructors, or physiotherapists, showing how to perform certain exercises. Just ensure that the content is from a reputable source and that you consult your healthcare team before starting a new exercise regime.

If you are unsure of what will be suitable for you personally, ask your GP to organise a Physiotherapy referral. A Physiotherapist will be able to give you some exercises tailored to you.

 

We hope that this post has given you the motivation to start getting physically active, or keep up your current levels of activity. By building things gradually you really will see the benefits over time, and will reap the rewards for many years to come!

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