Sporty over-65s are health cham­pi­ons

The Jewish Chronicle - - JC SPECIAL -

THERE IS a com­mon mis­con­cep­tion that you need to be young, fit, thin or nat­u­rally sporty to lead an ac­tive life­style. Yet health ex­perts dis­agree. They say reg­u­lar ex­er­cise for peo­ple of all ages not only im­proves phys­i­cal health but also re­duces the risk of dis­ease and chronic ill­ness.

Ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion, a seden­tary life­style is one of 10 lead­ing causes of death and dis­abil­ity.

Be­ing reg­u­larly ac­tive can re­duce your risk of coro­nary heart dis­ease by 40 per cent, cut stroke risk by 20 to 40 per cent, re­duce your chance of de­vel­op­ing type 2 di­a­betes by 30 per cent and cut breast can­cer risk in women by around 30 per cent.

And it is not all about phys­i­cal health. Re­searchers at the Alzheimer’s So­ci­ety re­port that peo­ple with an ac­tive life­style are around 30 per cent less likely to de­velop de­men­tia.

An in­ter­na­tional study by the Amer­i­can Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion re­veals reg­u­lar car­dio­vas­cu­lar ex­er­cise, such as brisk walk­ing, cy­cling, swim­ming, jog­ging and run­ning, can ex­tend your life­span by up to three and a half years.

Yet the Bri­tish pop­u­la­tion does not do enough. A 2015 study car­ried out by The Bri­tish Heart Foun­da­tion found 44 per cent of Brits ad­mit to not do­ing any ex­er­cise, while five mil­lion adults spend more than eight hours a day sit­ting down.

De­spite hav­ing more leisure time, clearly older peo­ple face more phys­i­cal and prac­ti­cal ob­sta­cles to ex­er­cis­ing and the re­sult is that only 30 per cent of those over 75 achieve the rec­om­mended two and a half hours’ mod­er­ate ac­tiv­ity per week. Only one in four peo­ple between the ages of 65 and 74 ex­er­cises reg­u­larly. As the Na­tional In­sti­tute for Ag­ing re­minds us, ex­er­cise

Ex­er­cise boosts mem­ory, con­fi­dence and mood is good for peo­ple of any age and can ease symp­toms of many chronic con­di­tions. Many symp­toms we link to old age, such as weak­ness and poor bal­ance, are ac­tu­ally linked to in­ac­tiv­ity, rather than age. Sweet­Tree, an award­win­ning home care provider, places high im­por­tance on en­cour­ag­ing older peo­ple to main­tain an ac­tive life­style. Gen­tle, reg­u­lar ex­er­cise can help pre­vent falls in the el­derly, says Sweet­Tree, as it im­proves mus­cle strength and bone den­sity. It can also im­prove bal­ance and co­or­di­na­tion. The World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion says reg­u­lar ex­er­cise can re­duce the risk of fall­ing by 10 to 20 per cent and of a hip frac­ture by 40 per cent.

Reg­u­lar weight-bear­ing ac­tiv­ity, such as walk­ing or jog­ging, will in­crease the strength of bones and lessen the chance of de­vel­op­ing os­teo­poro­sis and frac­tures.

“We al­ways try to en­cour­age and sup­port our clients to lead an ac­tive life­style and stay as mo­bile as pos­si­ble,” says Nicki Bones, oper­a­tions di­rec­tor from Sweet­Tree. “We’ve seen first hand the ben­e­fits it can of­fer in terms of im­prov­ing mood and general well­be­ing among the el­derly, as well as boost­ing their con­fi­dence.” A study by the Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Geri­atrics So­ci­ety ex­am­ined ex­er­cise in the el­derly and found train­ing led to im­prove­ments in how far they could reach and their abil­ity to bal­ance and re­duced par­tic­i­pants’ fear of fall­ing.

It can also al­le­vi­ate joint pain. Reg­u­lar ex­er­cise helps you man­age your weight and re­duces stress on joints. For ev­ery half a kilo you gain in ex­cess weight, you will add about 1.5 ki­los of pres­sure to your knees and pres­sure to the hips in­creases six-fold.

There are men­tal­health ben­e­fits, too. Ex­er­cise in­creases blood flow to the brain, which boosts men­tal focus and alert­ness, as well as con­cen­tra­tion skills.

It also ben­e­fits the hip­pocam­pus, the part of the brain that deals with mem­ory. It seems those who are mod­er­ately fit per­form bet­ter on mem­ory tests than those who are un­fit.

If you are new to ex­er­cise, check with your GP that it is safe to start, then build up grad­u­ally and try to in­cor­po­rate it into your daily rou­tine. Two short walks per day are fine. Try to avoid long pe­ri­ods of sit­ting still, as this can be harm­ful to your health — and if you do not get on with the walks, find another ac­tiv­ity you en­joy.

Ac­tive peo­ple are less likely to de­velop de­men­tia’


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