Staying Active At All Ages – Keeping Healthy With Care
13th September 2022
Staying Active At All Ages - Keeping Healthy With Care
It’s important for us to stay active at all ages. Keeping active can reduce blood pressure and lower the risk of falls and disease; improve heart and lung health, mood, mental health, well-being and memory; and to strengthen social ties.
On average adults aged 65 and over spend 10 hours or more each day sitting or lying down, but as we get older, it becomes even more important that we remain active if we want to stay healthy and maintain our independence.
Staying physically active helps us to continue to have the strength and energy to do the things we love such as playing with grandchildren, walking to the shops and meeting up with friends. There's also strong evidence that older adults who are active will reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke to a similar level as younger people who are active.
What do we mean by physically active?
Moderate physical activity is any activity that increases our heart rate and can include anything from gardening and fast walking, to yoga, tennis and aqua aerobics. The NHS advises that for all ages each activity should last at least 10 minutes and suggests that a popular way of achieving 150 minutes of activity is to do 30 minutes on at least 5 days a week.
Daily household chores do not count as moderate physical activity because they don’t raise the heart rate enough, but they do help break up our time spent sitting. This is also important for our health because sitting for long periods, even if we achieve the 150 minutes physical activity, is damaging for our health.
A closer look at some of the benefits
Improved Flexibility and Bone Density
They say ‘use it or lose it’ and this is certainly true of flexibility and bone health. If we move less our joints will lose their ability to move as far through their normal range and this will limit the amount of activity that can be done. The body then relies on another body part to compensate and that body part may start to ache from over-compensation. Any physical activity that uses all of our joints can help to prevent this, yoga, pilates, swimming and tai chi and tennis are all excellent options.
Linked to joint health of course is bone health and the risk of osteoporosis and osteopenia. Taking part in physical exercise that builds muscle actually builds bone strength because they require our bones to do more work. When faced with greater demand, our bones respond by building more bone.
Improved Mental Health
Exercise produces endorphins (the “feel good” hormone), which act as a stress reliever and leaves you feeling happy. If you choose a way to keep active that you particularly enjoy then the benefits are even more significant. Spending time in nature is shown to improve mood and so if you can combine physical activity with time outdoors you can double the benefit. Some activities are also particularly associated with improved mood too (if you enjoy them of course) such as dancing, yoga and walking.
How to increase physical activity
To increase our physical activity we need to reduce the amount of time sitting and increase the amount of moderate physical activity we engage in. It is useful to first think about how much we sit and try to make a point of standing and moving around more often. You can set an alarm to do this and some Smart Watches such as Fitbits can give alerts to remind us to get up.
To increase physical activity we need to find activities we will enjoy, so that we stick with them. Perhaps a combination of activities that also include a social element such as walking groups, exercise classes, if you enjoy gardening perhaps think about joining a ‘friends of’ group too.
If you've been inactive for a while, you can gradually build up your activity to reach recommended levels. You'll be improving your health in the process, and you'll start to see the benefits quickly.