Exercise and ageing : Physical activity is medicine in older age
Updated: Dec 2, 2020
Most of us know we should exercise. But it can be hard to know what to do, how to do it, and trust we are doing it safely.
As we grow older, our bodies and mind change. It's not something to be ashamed of, it's simply a process of adaptation.
There are normal physiological changes that occur in our body as a result of the ageing process, such as reduced lean body mass, bone density and stiffening of the blood vessels and arteries.
Even the fittest and healthiest among us will experience these changes at some point - none of us are immune.
As the age-old adage goes, age brings wisdom. But it often brings a sense of trepidation about the loss of good health, independence and mobility. We all want to be pain free, without having to depend on a concoction of pills or aids to live our lives to the fullest.
The good news is that exercise has been shown to prevent disease, lower the risk of falls, improve mental health and wellbeing, and improve cognitive function.
Regular exercise (even light walking) can help prevent and manage many common diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. It also improves overall immune function, which is important for older adults and cancer patients as their immune systems are often compromised.
The mental health benefits of exercise are often overlooked but are clearly proven to positively impact anxiety, depression, PTSD and social isolation, as well as improve memory and overall mood.
Exercise produces endorphins (the “feel good” hormone), which act as a stress reliever that feels you feeling happy and satisfied. The key is to find an exercise you love and do it with friends so it will never feel like a chore again.
Additionally, exercise has been linked to improving sleep, which is especially important for older adults who often suffer from sleep apnoea, insomnia and disrupted sleep patterns.
As we age, we are also at greater risk of falls which can be devastating for maintaining independence. Recovery from falls can be painfully slow and prevention is better than cure, particularly in older adults.
Resistance training improves muscle and bone strength and flexibility, which also helps to improve balance and coordination, reducing the risk of falls.
Cognitive functions such as attention and memory are also affected by age. However, countless studies have shown regular varied physical activity and fine-tuned motor skills reduce the risk of developing dementia, regardless of when you start.
Studies also suggest around half of the physical decline that is associated with old age may be due to lack of physical activity. So, we know exercise is good for you! The challenge is making it a priority, having fun, and building it into your daily life.
At the Move Clinic, we're big believers in making exercise fun, accessible and inclusive so you can enjoy the benefits at any age. Exercise shouldn't be a chore, it's a crucial ingredient to lasting positive health outcomes.
The Move Clinic offers one-on-one consultations, group classes and treatment plans to keep you moving. Call us on 02 4782 2627 to organise an appointment.