Phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity im­proves se­niors’ qual­ity of life

The Niagara Falls Review - - Arts & Life - SU­SAN JURBALA Spe­cial to The St. Catharines Stan­dard For more in­for­ma­tion, please con­tact Su­san Jurbala, Project Lead Sport for Life su­san@sport­for­life or 289 646-9397.

Older adults are a big­ger part of our so­ci­ety than ever — for the first time, there are more Cana­di­ans over the age of 65 than un­der the age of 15.

We all need to be con­cerned about main­tain­ing a good qual­ity of life into our older years but un­for­tu­nately only 15 per cent of Cana­dian adults meet na­tional phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity rec­om­men­da­tions of 150 min­utes of mod­er­ate to vig­or­ous ac­tiv­ity per week. With in­ac­tiv­ity, the risks of dis­ease in­clud­ing di­a­betes, obe­sity, heart dis­ease, and os­teo­poro­sis in­crease. How can we help older Cana­di­ans be more ac­tive and stay healthy longer?

De­vel­op­ing and main­tain­ing some­thing called “phys­i­cal lit­er­acy” can be the gate­way to in­creased phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and a key to re­silience — help­ing to re­duce the ef­fects of falls, in­juries, and ill­ness. Phys­i­cal lit­er­acy means hav­ing the move­ment skills, con­fi­dence in one’s abil­ity to move, and mo­ti­va­tion to stay ac­tive. It means learn­ing not just move­ment skills, but the cog­ni­tive skills to know how to move.

For­tu­nately, the nec­es­sary skills and abil­i­ties can be learned at any age. Sport for Life, a Cana­dian or­ga­ni­za­tion pro­mot­ing qual­ity sport and phys­i­cal lit­er­acy, has de­vel­oped a re­source called “Ac­tive for Life: Durable by De­sign” that out­lines eight key fac­tors: ap­pro­pri­ate phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity, cog­ni­tive func­tion, psy­cho­log­i­cal well-be­ing, so­cial con­nec­tion, em­brac­ing life tran­si­tions, man­ag­ing chronic con­di­tions, mind­ful nu­tri­tion and dura­bil­ity by de­sign.

Through im­proved phys­i­cal lit­er­acy, in­di­vid­u­als are bet­ter able to rec­og­nize how to re­act in all sit­u­a­tions and avoid cer­tain kinds of in­jury (e.g. falls, which are more likely when an in­di­vid­ual loses bal­ance and strength). Phys­i­cally lit­er­ate in­di­vid­u­als are also mo­ti­vated to be more ac­tive. This pro­vides a pro­tec­tive ef­fect — a more phys­i­cally lit­er­ate, more ac­tive per­son will be both health­ier and bet­ter able to re­cover from phys­i­cal setbacks, such as an in­jury, and re­turn to ac­tiv­ity sooner- in other words to be more re­silient, and there­fore more durable.

A shift in think­ing is needed. To start, a deeper ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the im­por­tant role that phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity can play in pro­mot­ing health needs to be de­vel­oped. But it’s not just about avoid­ing ill-health, since phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity can also en­hance brain func­tion and help build and sus­tain so­cial con­nec­tions. Ba­si­cally, phys­i­cal lit­er­acy can help us be more ac­tive, and phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity that makes us more durable is es­sen­tial to suc­cess­ful ag­ing.

The Phys­i­cal Lit­er­acy for Older Adults Col­lab­o­ra­tive Project 2017-19 is a part­ner­ship with the City of St. Catharines, Ni­a­gara Re­gion, Age-Friendly Ni­a­gara Net­work , Sport for Life and Sun­ny­brook Health Sciences and funded by the On­tario Sport and Re­cre­ation Com­mu­nity Fund (OSRCF). The fo­cus is on train­ing over 150 com­mu­nity lead­ers, health­care pro­fes­sion­als, ex­er­cise spe­cial­ists, and care providers to use a phys­i­cal lit­er­a­cy­based ap­proach in an older adult pop­u­la­tion as it re­lates to in­creas­ing phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity, re­duc­ing chronic dis­ease and im­prov­ing health. An aware­ness cam­paign will be cre­ated to ed­u­cate our older adults on the im­por­tance of phys­i­cal lit­er­acy as well.

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