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Importance of physical activity for older adults living at home

Most older adults live independently and maintain close relationships with family and friends, their personalities remain relatively stable, depression is less prevalent than that of younger adults. However, most older adults do experience normal, age-related changes that may affect their lifestyle – hearing impairment, weakening vision, and an increasing probability of arthritis, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Keeping active can help us to cope better in our older years.

Physical activity is very important for your health. It can also offer the emotional benefits of companionship. Exercise helps to maintain muscle strength. Healthy muscle tone will give you a greater ability to manage day to-day chores around the home, reduce the incidence of falls and  improve posture. The more time you spend exercising daily the greater the benefits but equally, any amount of activity is better than non at all. Try to build up to 20 minutes of aerobic exercise a day.

Types of physical activities for older people

  • Brisk walking – you can use special wrist or ankle weights to build resistance training into this aerobic activity
  • Mow the lawn, using a shovel to dig in the garden or attend dance classes, etc. – any exercise that gets you breathing harder and your heart beating faster
  • Gardening, yoga or the use of resistance bands will all help to build muscle strength
  • Swimming or water aerobics – low impact and less jarring so it won’t impact of frail joints.

If physical activity doesn’t come naturally to you and you need a way to keep motivated, then choose an activity you really enjoy and one that you can easily get to. Find a friend, a home care worker or family member to train alongside you.

If you are struggling to walk up the stairs or find it difficult to get up out of a chair it doesn’t mean that exercise isn’t safe for you to partake in. In fact, exercise will help to strengthen muscles and improve balance enabling you to cope better in your own home. The benefits of exercise have been proven to outweigh the risks – even if you suffer a chronic illness, exercise done at a slower rate is beneficial.

Physical exercise, no matter what your age will help improve your quality of life. Exercise helps the heart, lungs, muscles, brain functioning, improves immune function and bone density (risk of osteoporosis). Of course, there are some people whose medical conditions or general frailty prevent them from being active. With proper instruction and guidance, there are exercises that can be done to improve mobility and strength – very important for frail older adults who are the most prone to falling and breaking bones.

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