Sporty over-65s are health champions
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’