Physical Activity For The Elderly
A Key Ingredient for Healthy Aging
People are living longer and healthier lives compared to the past. We have seen over the last few decades that exercise and a certain level of fitness have contributed greatly to longevity. A certain level of fitness protects you from a number of chronic diseases as well as makes it easier for you to perform the many tasks of daily life. Fitness actually promotes a better quality of life. Physical activity is a key ingredient for healthy aging of body, mind and spirit.
Most people believe that growing old means that all aspects of health and physical function deteriorate with advancing age. Don't be fooled! As regular physical activity can alter the rate of decline of many physical and psychological variables. Aging should not be viewed in a negative light as there is much that you can do to positively influence the aging process. By making healthy and active lifesyle choices, you can maximise your quality of life as you grow older.
Maintenance of Joint Mobility
Loss of muscle mass and loss of muscle power occur with advancing age. Exercises can be designed to decrease the rate of these losses. I have discussed in 'Exercise Your Way To Health', the importance of stretching. Joint mobility can be maintained in later years by stretching the muscles that span joints. One of the major causes of joint stiffness is joint contracture which is a stiffening or shortening of the ligaments, tendons, joint capsules, muscles and skin around the joints that reduces joint mobility (Harada, 1995 ).
It must be noted however, that before you undertake any sort of physical activity that you should undergo proper screening for your present health condition. Proper medical assessment will limit the risk of injury during your physical activity. Older adults can use exercise to improve or maintain their physical functioning and so help them to stay independent or avoid disability.
Below are some functional tasks that may improve with exercise training (Jones & Rose, 2005 )
Functional Tasks That May Improve With Exercises
Type of Exercise Training
Aerobic endurance training
Walk in order to complete errands or attend events, climb stairs, etc.
Resistance Training for upper body and trunk
Lifting things, perform garden work, carry groceries
Resistance Training for lower body
Stand up from floor, get in or out of a chair, bend and pick up off floor
Flexibility Training for lower body and trunk
Put on shoes and socks, bending
Flexibility Training for upper body
Turn head left, right and reaching overhead
Balance and Mobility Training
Walking the dog, responding appropriately to unexpected losses of balance
Warm Up and Cool Down
Always remember to warm up and cool down before and after exercises. Warming up increases the efficiency of numerous body systems such as lung circulation and delivery of oxygen to working muscles. You can do biceps curls, arm swings from front to back and side to side. Walking is perfect for any aerobic endurance program for seniors. Of all endurance activities, walking is the most functionally relevant. It is the easiest to integrate into activities of daily living.
Remember You are as Young as You Feel or as Old as You Feel! Choose to be young at heart throughout your entire life. Age is just a number.