Living Longer, Living Stronger

The importance of exercising and staying active is strongly emphasized on nowadays. From young children to older adults, all are encouraged to lead physically active lives. Especially for the elderly, exercising regularly is very important. This is because being active brings with it a number of benefits:

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  • It prevents disease
  • It reduces dependence on others
  • It promotes health and well-being leading to a happier life

The Changes Due to Aging

As we age, our body undergoes changes – both biological and psychosocial. Biologically the cells age and as a result the risk of diseases rises. This is true for healthy individuals too as their stamina, bone strength and flexibility, all decrease. Muscle strength is lost which affects a person’s functionality. Psychosocial changes happen as a result of changes in a person’s social environment which can in turn affect a person’s physical health.

The Amazing Benefits of Exercise

Exercise has specifically been seen to play an important role in reducing the risk of the following diseases:

Other than the aforementioned physical benefits, exercising also contributes towards the mental well-being of people.

Inculcating the practice of regular physical activity in children will help them immensely as they grow older. For older adults it is never too late to start exercising – it will even help deal with any present aches and pains they may have.

More specifically, in the following areas vast improvement was recorded for the elderly.

  • Increased mobility
  • Increased strength
  • Improved balance and co-ordination

One Size Does Not Fit All!

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It is important to note that when starting off with physical activity, each person’s fitness level is different. So, what one person does might not be possible for another person of the same age. Exercising for 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week is recommended. Given below are a few guidelines to keep in mind while starting physical activity.

  • Start off with what is possible (depending on the individual’s current fitness level).
  • Stretches which will help with flexibility are recommended.
  • Balance exercises are also good starting points as they reduce risk of falls.
  • While the exercise should achieve its purpose, safety is paramount. A professional’s guidance can be sought while performing the exercises for the first time.
  • If other medical conditions are present, it would be best to consult with a doctor before embarking on an exercise program.

Prevent Falls

As a person crosses the age of 65, the risk of falls increases drastically. Exercising can not only promote balance and hence reduce the possibility of falls but it can also reduce the injuries sustained if a fall does happen. The kind of exercises that should be performed to reduce fall risk include strengthening exercises, balancing exercises and gait training exercises. Around 3 hours of these exercises performed over a week would be most beneficial to the patient.

WHO Guidelines

The WHO advises a combination of cardiovascular and resistance training exercises for people over 65. This includes half an hour of cardiovascular activity like running, swimming, etc. along with working out with weights to improve strength. The intensity can be increased gradually as the person gets used to it. Resistance training can be performed 2-3 days in a week with adequate rest in-between.

Takeaways

  • A person’s fitness level has to be evaluated before starting any exercise regime, especially if he has other health conditions.
  • It is best to consult a health care provider when starting on a fitness program.
  • Along with cardiovascular and resistance training activities, balance exercises too can be included for maximum benefits.
  • Lastly, doing an exercise you like makes the whole process not only beneficial but enjoyable as well.
iyyappan-manoharan

Iyyappan Manoharan,
Physiotherapist
Kauvery Hospital, Chennai