As you grow older it can be harder to remain active. Joints start to creak and ache, your strength and stamina diminishes, and minor injuries can be much harder to recover from than they used to be which can sap your confidence.
Having support from family, friends, or a live in care provider can drastically improve how active you are – but why should you bother in the first place? Especially if you have never really enjoyed exercise as such.
Strong muscles lead to fewer falls
Falls are one of the leading causes of hospitalisation in the older population. Broken bones don’t heal as quickly as they do in younger patients and for some a fall can bring about the end of their independence, leading to depression and low self esteem in some cases.
But active adults who perform activities which strengthen muscle tone see an increase not only in strength but also in balance and co-ordination. Together these factors make a fall less likely, and if a fall does occur it is less likely to be serious.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is seen in a lot of the elderly population and it can indicate damage to the coronary system. Regular exercise – enough to make you out of breath and raise your heart rate – can help to lower your blood pressure and combat hypertension.
Minimises joint pain
One reason many older adults are sedentary is because they suffer from arthritis. The inflammation, swelling and pain in their joints leads them to avoid activity when in actual fact gentle movement should be encouraged to combat precisely those symptoms.
Improves mood and motivation
A lot of people find, as they age, that they find themselves losing motivation. Having regular company – ideally a partner or in home care provider who can chat and be around 24 hours a day – is essential to promoting a positive outlook and avoiding depression. Exercise can also lift your mood and can lower the risk of developing depression, low motivation or isolating behaviours. Scheduled exercise – for example a weekly class – can also be a great way to meet new friends and can provide a focal point in a week lacking structure once retirement has been reached.
Keeping it real
When we talk about physical activity we don’t mean taking up running and entering the London Marathon. Keeping active is about structuring your day so that you don’t spend long periods of time sitting or otherwise motionless.
Gentle activities can include light housework such as dusting or washing up, some gardening such as deadheading or pulling weeds, walking to the shop or to exercise your dog or spending a few minutes on a stationary exercise bike instead of watching TV.
If you have been less active and want to increase your physical activity it is important that you take advice from your doctor and increase the amount you do at any one time in small bursts. 5-10 minutes at a time is plenty if you are unused to the activity and by taking it slowly you reduce the risk of exercise induced injuries.