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  • Beckie M

Five reasons why exercise is so important for older people

I won’t lie…I really love going to the gym. Many people think I’m mad, as my ideal Friday night consists of a challenging, high intensity workout at my local gym finished off with a hot shower and a protein shake. Yes, I’m a little odd when it comes to my love for exercise, but even if you’re not a ‘gym bunny’ doing something active really makes you feel good afterwards, doesn’t it? My favourite part of the class is the end – I really thrive off the feeling of having accomplished something and the lovely endorphins I can feel whizzing round my body. Exercise is what your body wants and needs, so of course, you’ll always feel this way after doing something active and beneficial for your body, (even though in the process you might be feeling like you’re about to pass out at any minute!)

So why is it so important to stay active when you’re older? Many people over the age of 65 spend, on average, up to 10 hours a day sitting down. If they are retired or living alone, it may be hard sometimes to find the motivation to get up and go out, and much easier to stay in watching the TV. Obviously this can lead to health problems, if the body isn’t being used as often as it should, general movement is going to get trickier as time goes by. Below are some reasons of why you should be making sure that older people that you know in your community are getting enough exercise and staying active…


Falling will be less of a risk – many older people are particularly vulnerable to falls; a third of over 65 year olds fall each year. Frequent gentle exercise will help to prevent this by keeping the body active.


Not staying active will mean you can’t do as much – as obvious as it sounds, it’s true. Simple tasks like walking to the town or going on a day out may be much more difficult for older people if they are not used to moving around a lot every day. Don’t let poor health put a downer on special days out.


Movement keeps your brain active – Physical exercise also helps to keep the brain active and engaged, studies have shown that physical exercise can reduce chances of getting brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s.


You’re less likely to suffer from serious illnesses too – there’s lots of evidence that people who are active have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type two diabetes, some cancers and depression.


Exercise doesn’t have to be boring or difficult – why not try something fun? Like a local aerobics class? or Tai Chi? As long as it’s an activity that raises the heart rate, you’re on the right track. There’s also sports, try your local leisure centre or gym and see what classes they offer. This is also a great opportunity to meet other people and socialise whilst exercising too.


What ‘counts’ as moderate exercise? There’s loads of different things that you can do! Some ideas for moderate to vigorous activities are listed below:


a brisk walk

heavy gardening

aerobics

swimming

a bike ride

tennis

mowing the lawn

carrying heavy loads

yoga

martial arts

dancing

jogging

hiking


Still lacking a bit of motivation? I believe that the magic trigger is music. What’s your natural instinct when you hear that song that you really, really love? The song you remember from the first night out you went on when you turned 18? Or the one you partied to at your 30th Birthday? Or that one from your favourite film? …Dancing! Good music makes us want to move and dance. Having music as your accompaniment to your exercise is really important. It’s been proven to increase your motivation and performance by 45%, and the faster, the better (but the optimum speed is between 120-140 BPM). It serves as a good distraction, rather than you thinking about that exercise you’re trying to do, you’re listening to the words, lyrics and the beat.


Interestingly, another study has found that exercising whilst making your own music had another positive effect; being in control of your own music making improves the experience even more. So how do you do this with an older person? In our sessions we always make sure that we include some gentle exercise and movement for all of the reasons listed above. Our routines are fun and safe, and you don’t really feel like you’re exercising, just dancing and having fun (and we’re usually singing at the same time!). If you want to try exercise with an older person at home, or some exercise with the residents of your care home there are lots of simple activities and ideas you can try by clicking here. There are also some fantastic sessions available and training courses, from fellow Social Enterprise Oomph, who specialise in movement and exercise for older people. I’m sure you’ve probably already seen this fantastic viral video, but why not have another watch…it makes you feel good just watching the elderly man below, who is clearly having a good time!

Make sure you try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise into your daily routine, especially if you know an older person in your community that would benefit from some outside motivation. Why not spend time with them and introduce them to some simple exercises? Even if it’s just going for a walk together. Every little bit helps to keep a healthy and happy lifestyle. Don’t forget, you can always book a session with us, all of our sessions are music based, but we believe in keeping active too and many of our activities include some forms of exercise.


References: NHS Choices – Exercise for Older People Online, Huffington Post – Healthy Living, reasons why you should listen to music when you work out.

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