Exercise and the elderly
Special Populations Blog

Advancing age comes with its own slew of challenges. A few of these are more noticeable than physical fitness. For many, getting older means far less time spent being active, which in itself can contribute drastically to the ageing process. Maintaining body performance is important for the health of those both young and old. This means that – contrary to being something which you can neglect in your old age – maintaining fitness gets more important as you age. But how can staying active benefit the elderly?

Importance of exercise for the elderly

Staying active as you get older will provide you with a number of advantages if you approach it correctly and carefully. These benefits include a lowered risk of heart disease, strokes, diabetes, depression and dementia. Exercise also helps to combat joint and muscle stiffness or pain. It keeps you moving actively and confidently as your years wear on.

Regular exercise has not only been proven to extend people’s lifespans but it will also greatly improve the quality of life in the elderly. Marlo Sollitto lists some of the benefits that exercise can have for the elderly:

Immune Function. A healthy, strong body fights off infection and sickness more easily and more quickly. Rather than sapping energy reserves entirely, recovery from an illness will take less of a toll on the body if the person exercises regularly.
Cardio-Respiratory and Cardiovascular Function. Frequent physical activity lowers the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. If the elderly person has hypertension, exercise will help lower their blood pressure.
Bone Density and Risk of Osteoporosis. Exercise protects against loss in bone mass. Better bone density will reduce the risk of osteoporosis, lower the risk of falling and prevent broken bones. Post-menopausal women can lose as much as 2% bone mass each year, and men also lose bone mass as they age. Research done at Tufts University shows that strength training can dramatically reduce this loss, help restore bones, and contribute to better balance and less fractures.
Gastrointestinal Function. Regular exercise helps boost your metabolism and promotes the efficient elimination of waste and encourages digestive health.
Chronic Conditions and Cancer. Physical activity lowers risk of serious conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and colon cancer, to name a few. It also helps in the management of high cholesterol and arthritis pain.”

So, with that in mind, jumping into rigorous exercise routines may do more damage to the elderly than good. So what types of exercises promote better health without putting too much strain on the body?

Moderate Walking

If there was one function that the human body has been designed perfectly for, it’s near-endless walking. That’s why our ancestors did so well traversing continents on foot. Because of this, moderate walking is great exercise for people of all ages. If you are fairly new to exercise, then fast-paced but shorter walks will do you wonders. It will give you the opportunity to build up your distance, speed and enjoyment of the exercise slowly .

Low-impact swimming

Whether you are doing a few lengths in the pool or are taking part in water aerobics, swimming pools offer one of the best low-impact environments to work out in. In the case of the elderly, low-impact exercises will help keep their joints, muscles and bones protected while still building strength and stamina. Pool exercises can range from moderately challenging to downright excruciating so be sure to be aware of your limitations and build your routines carefully.

Yoga, Thai Chi or Pilates

Restorative exercises such as Yoga, Thai Chi and Pilates provide exercises that encourage flexibility and core strength which helps with balance, bone density and manoeuvrability. Besides this, breathing techniques commonly used by these disciplines also foster better blood flow and lung capacity, contributing to better overall health and quality of life.

Contact Trifocus Fitness Academy today

If you would like to find out more about enrolling in our fitness courses that will allow you to become a trainer for the elderly, be sure to contact a consultant from Trifocus Fitness Academy today, or take a look at our website for more details.