“Few people know how to take a walk. The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humour, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
How are you feeling at the moment?
Many people have been struggling during the pandemic – both with mental health and staying active. However, it’s important for all of us, including older adults, to take regular exercise and avoid having a sedentary lifestyle.
The fantastic summer of sport that we’re starting to see right now has encouraged us to think about the importance of keeping an active mind and body. And it doesn’t matter how old you are – you’re never too old or too young to take care of yourself.
Older people can remain active, give or take occasional aches and pains, and can enjoy the health benefits of an active lifestyle. Physical activity is always a good idea – whether you prefer gentle exercises like water aerobics or something mindful such as tai chi.
There’s something for everyone. We encourage all our home care clients to take care of their physical and mental health, so they reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and other issues.
Why is exercise so important?
“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” – Betty Friedan
We often hear that you’re only as young as you feel. But it may be more accurate to say that you only feel as young as your health permits. To maximise the number of well years you have, exercise is imperative.
First of all, it can help you maintain your mobility – helping your muscles and connective tissues maintain their proper length. This means you can be limber for longer and move with less discomfort. Regular walking can help control inflammatory pain and can make joint mobility much better.
Secondly, an active heart is a healthy heart – and exercise can slow heart aging; whether it’s aerobic or not. It can also arrest and reverse the age-related rise in blood pressure which stiffens heart muscles and can lead to heart disease.
Lastly, strength training can support your posture, bone health and balance. You don’t need to become weaker and frailer as you get older. Staying active and challenging your muscles can help with this.
What exercise can I do?
“Those who think they have no time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” – Edward Stanley
If you’re embarking on a new exercise regime at any age, it’s a good idea to first have a chat with your doctor to get advice about what is and isn’t safe.
This is especially important if you are taking regular medication or have any chronic conditions with your lung or heart. You can also try and find a personal trainer who specialises in supporting older people.
Once you’ve been given the OK to exercise, walking is a good start. You can do this outside or on a treadmill. If you have access to a gym or gym machinery, stationary bikes and elliptical machines are gentle on joints.
Start slowly and on an exceptionally low level of intensity and gently build this up. Swimming is a fantastic option for older people. You can swim laps or do exercise classes – this is safe and low impact and a great way to move your body with no risk of falling!
You may be interested in finding out more about strength training. This helps maintain your muscle tone and bone density – the latter of which is particularly important for women.
You can do a weights programme two or three times a week, using machines or weights. You can also use your own body weight in tandem with resistance bands.
Staying active and well if you’re housebound
“Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be.” – Robert Browning
It’s important to remain mentally active even you’re not able to get out and about at all, or as much as you used to. Talking to people and keeping your social skills well lubricated is always a good idea, so you can decide to make one phone call a day, or week, depending on your desires.
You can learn a new skill, re-engage with a previous hobby, volunteer, write your memoirs – the list is endless! As our Director Romola always says,
“It’s not what’s been taken away from you, but what you’ve got left that matters!”
Talking about mental health with your loved one(s)
Mental health is just as important as physical health, but issues with this are sometimes harder to see. It’s a good idea to talk to your loved ones about their emotional wellbeing and to look out for signs that they are struggling. Do start conversations about this – in our experience most people are happy to be asked. However, think about the language you are using. Steer clear of phrases like “mental health” and “depression” and use more informal language.
What are you going to do to look after your body and mind today?
“It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.” – Socrates