7 sim­ple – but es­sen­tial – ex­er­cises for the el­derly

Think older get­ting should mean putting your feet up? Lisa sal­mon finds out why keep­ing ac­tive is ac­tu­ally vi­tal for sup­port­ing health in older age

Bath Chronicle - - FAMILY & LIFESTYLE -

AS we grow older, nig­gling aches and pains can be seen as a sign it’s time to slow down and take things easy. But slow­ing down too much can do more harm than good.

The Char­tered So­ci­ety of Phys­io­ther­apy (CSP; csp.org.uk) points out that move­ment keeps mus­cles strong and helps main­tain a healthy weight, which also pro­tects the joints as we age.

while it might feel like move­ment is the last thing you need when aches set in, reg­u­lar ac­tiv­ity can ac­tu­ally help man­age joint stiff­ness, pain and fa­tigue, which can af­fect mood and men­tal health and well­be­ing too.

Keep­ing ac­tive can also cut the risk, or help man­age, con­di­tions like heart dis­ease and stroke, cer­tain can­cers and type 2 di­a­betes.

De­spite this, nearly a quar­ter (24%) of over-65s do no strength­en­ing ac­tiv­i­ties at all, putting them at in­creas­ing risk of falls and other health prob­lems, ac­cord­ing to CSP re­search.

“move­ment is es­sen­tial for ev­ery as­pect of our health, says phys­io­ther­a­pist and CSP pro­fes­sional ad­vi­sor Fran hal­lam. “Our bod­ies are de­signed to move, and not do­ing so is harm­ful to our health, mus­cles and joints. As we be­come older, this can also in­crease the risk of fall­ing.”

The good news is, it’s never too late to start – so if your ac­tiv­ity lev­els could use a boost, here’s what the pros at the CSP ad­vise...

how much should you do? STUD­IES show that 3-5% of mus­cle is lost ev­ery year from the age of 30 on­wards, if steps aren’t taken to main­tain it.

Of­fi­cial guide­lines sug­gest adults should do ac­tiv­i­ties to strengthen mus­cles and bones and chal­lenge bal­ance and co-or­di­na­tion at least twice a week, as this will not only pre­vent falls, but also im­prove mood, help sleep pat­terns and bring over­all health and well­be­ing ben­e­fits.

do things you ac­tu­ally en­joy ex­er­cise doesn’t have to be tor­ture or pun­ish­ment! Phys­io­ther­a­pists rec­om­mend ev­ery­one finds a phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity they en­joy, so they’ll keep go­ing. Try in­volv­ing fam­ily and friends for sup­port and mo­ti­va­tion too – you’re much more likely to main­tain an ex­er­cise rou­tine if you do it with other peo­ple.

Then set goals – big or small – to keep you mo­ti­vated, and pace your­self by start­ing slowly and grad­u­ally build­ing up your ac­tiv­ity.

The CSP says it’s OK to ache a bit, but if pain per­sists or gets worse, ease back and go slower.

What sort of ex­er­cise should older peo­ple do?

“YOU don’t need to lift huge weights to strengthen your mus­cles,” says Fran. “You can start to build strength by com­plet­ing ev­ery­day ac­tiv­i­ties, like car­ry­ing shop­ping, wash­ing the car and dig­ging in the gar­den.”

seek ad­vice if you’re un­sure

IF YOU have a his­tory of joint pain or prob­lems, or any other on­go­ing health is­sues, it’s al­ways ad­vis­able to speak with your doc­tor be­fore start­ing a new ex­er­cise regime. If joint prob­lems are a con­cern, a phys­io­ther­a­pist will be able to ad­vise on how best to pro­ceed with an ex­er­cise pro­gramme.

ac­tiv­i­ties that ben­e­fit older peo­ple un­sure where to start? Con­sider in­cor­po­rat­ing some of these into your rou­tine:

1aer­o­bic ex­er­cise Swim­ming or walk­ing briskly will raise heart and breath­ing rates, ben­e­fit the car­dio­vas­cu­lar sys­tem and help keep weight in check.

ex­er­cis­ing in a swim­ming pool can in­clude walk­ing, squats, march­ing and side-step­ping as well as swim­ming.

All these ac­tiv­i­ties im­prove fit­ness and are low im­pact on the joints. 2 strength and bal­ance ac­tiv­i­ties TAI chi, rac­quet sports and Pi­lates can help main­tain mus­cle mass and im­prove pos­ture and sta­bil­ity.


Weight-bear­ing ex­er­cise AC­TIV­I­TIES such as wash­ing the car, car­ry­ing shop­ping or gar­den­ing can help main­tain bone den­sity and strength.

“If you in­cor­po­rate these ac­tiv­i­ties into your daily rou­tine, it won’t be long be­fore you start to feel the ben­e­fits,” says Fran.

“But as with any ac­tiv­ity, our bod­ies adapt quickly, so al­ways make sure you’re chal­leng­ing your­self – get­ting off the bus a stop ear­lier or car­ry­ing the shop­ping a lit­tle fur­ther,

for ex­am­ple.” 4 gen­tle stretch­ing Stretch­ing mus­cles through ac­tiv­i­ties such as such as Tai chi or yoga will help pro­mote flex­i­bil­ity and range of mo­tion in joints.

5avoid­ing sit­ting for long pe­ri­ods De­velop prompts to re­mind your­self to get on your feet – stand to make phone calls or get up dur­ing the ad­vert breaks when watch­ing Tv, for in­stance.


gym ma­chines

JOIN­ING a gym is a good way to ac­cess re­sis­tance ma­chines or weights. most gyms have per­sonal train­ers or staff who can show you how to use the ma­chines safely.


home ex­er­cises

IF You’re not a mem­ber of a gym, there are many body weight ex­er­cises you can do at home.

The fol­low­ing ex­er­cises are rec­om­mended by phys­io­ther­a­pists to help im­prove co-or­di­na­tion and bal­ance in older peo­ple. They should be done daily, or at least twice a week. ■ Sit to stand: Sit tall near the front of a chair with feet slightly back. Lean for­wards slightly and stand up (with your hands on the chair if needed). Step back un­til your legs touch the chair, then slowly lower your­self back into the chair. Re­peat 10 times. ■ Heel raises: Stand tall, hold­ing on to a sturdy sur­face such as the kitchen sink or work­top, then lift your heels off the floor, tak­ing your weight into your big toes. Try not to lean for­wards or back­wards. Hold for three sec­onds, then lower with con­trol. Re­peat 10 times. ■ Toe raises: Stand tall hold­ing the same sup­port, then raise your toes, tak­ing your weight on your heels. Don’t stick your bot­tom out. Hold for three sec­onds, then lower with con­trol. Re­peat 10 times. ■ One leg stand: Stand close to your sup­port and hold it with one hand. Bal­ance on one leg, keep­ing the sup­ported knee soft and your pos­ture up­right. Hold for 10 sec­onds. Re­peat on the other leg. ■ Heel-toe stand: Stand tall, with one hand on your sup­port. Put one foot di­rectly in front of the other to make a straight line. Look ahead, take your hand off the sup­port as you’re able and bal­ance for 10 sec­onds. Take the front foot back to hip-width apart. Then place the other foot in front and bal­ance for 10 sec­onds. ■ Heel-toe walk­ing: Stand tall, with one hand on your sup­port. Look ahead and walk 10 steps for­wards, plac­ing one foot di­rectly in front of the other. Aim for a steady walk­ing ac­tion. Take the feet back to hip width apart, turn around slowly and re­peat the steps in the other di­rec­tion.

You don’t need to lift huge weights to strengthen mus­cles, while brisk walk­ing (right) is a great aer­o­bic ex­er­cise

Phys­io­ther­a­pist and CSP pro­fes­sional ad­vi­sor, Fran Hal­lam

Tai chi is good for pos­ture, bal­ance and flex­i­bil­ity

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