Active Seniors!

03.03.2016

The aging process is natural and very individual, It begins to take effect around the age of 50  and becomes more noticeable by the age of 65. The process can lead to reduced mobility, loss of independence, increased frailty and an increased risk of falls.

We naturally lose muscle mass as we age, this is called Sarcopenia or “Flesh poverty” but it is totally preventable . As we age, if we are not active our muscle mass decreases 0.5-2% per year which results in a 2-4% loss of muscle strength. You may have noticed yourself or a family member starting to make noises when  bending down or try to get out of  a chair??   Our fat % increases but there might not be a change in body weight due to the change in the composition. Loss of muscle can result in frailty in later life but…It is not inevitable and it is reversible!

When I was on the gym floor a lovely lady, 82 years young came in for her first induction. She hadn’t been referred to us by a medical professional and when I asked her what made her come down to the gym she said that it was something she’d never done and it was on her ‘bucket list’! She absolutely loved it and said that over time she had noticed an improvement in  her balance and strength and she could walk up the stairs without getting out of breath; job done!

Aging can differ from person to person but research shows that being active can help to keep older people independent for longer and really helps with depression as it is great for their social lives!

Unfortunately getting older can bring about some unpleasantness. Each year hospitals see over 300,000 cases of broken hips and wrists which means that 1 in 3 adults over the age of 65 fall. The main cause of these falls are due to Osteoporosis: or thinning of the bones. Regular weight bearing activity such as walking and resistance training can help improve bone density and would help to reduce the figure of the three million people affected by this in the UK. Osteo arthritis is very common affecting six million people, it isn’t a given that we will all develop OA and it could be due to genetics or over-using a joint but being sedentary plays a big role in its development. Increasing muscle, ligaments and tendons around the affected joint can protect the skeleton.

Up to 75% of elderly people have insufficient physical activity to achieve health benefits. Many older people (84% of men and 93% of women ≥65 years) either cannot walk 8 feet safely or fast enough to use a pedestrian crossing in the UK which is a real concern

Many older people not only  don’t have enough strength to pull themselves out of a chair or climb the stairs, they also don’t have good enough balance to stay upright and their core muscles aren’t strong enough to control their pelvic floor leading to incontinence which affects three million people in the UK

If you are young  and reading this you are probably thinking that old age is something that is never going to happen to you, but it is inevitable, it creeps up on as all! We can’t avoid it but we can give ourselves the best chance of being an active  independent senior. Regular physical activity throughout our lives will help to slow down the aging process by keeping us flexible, the cardio-vascular system functioning well, decreasing the risk of developing chronic diseases, keeping our bodies functional and strong and our fat % to healthy levels so, if you’re sedentary now … get moving!

If you are older and you haven’t taken part in regular physical activity the good news is that loss of muscle mass can be re-trained and the results are quick and huge ! Tests have shown that muscle strength can be improved after just 8 – 12 weeks of resistance work and muscle power is improved after 12 weeks. It is also known that  it takes 12 weeks to rejuvenate leg strength by 10-40%, equivalent to reversing up to 20 years of decline so it really is a case of use it or lose it!

So, if you are a senior and want to become more active, what can you do?

I know many older people who whoop people half their age in the gym, they have been active for years and their muscles, nervous and cardio vascular systems are functioning fantastically. Their Boditrax scan metabolic age results show that at the age of 60 they are metabolically 45 which is the same as an inactive overweight sedentary 25 year old! Makes you think doesn’t it?

But, if you are an inactive senior it’s never too late to start and you will see improvements.

Physical activity doesn’t have to be the gym you just need to move your body for at least 30 minutes a day and this can be broken up throughout the day, you don’t have to do it all in one hit. But, consider this, 75 % of older people spend 10 hours or more a day sitting down it’s no wonder we start to seize up and make weird noises.

Being active means walking, doing house work, gardening DIY or more structured activities such as swimming, dancing, group exercise sessions, golf or bowls. The key is to find something you enjoy, you are more likely to be motivated to continue going and to feel the benefits. You don’t have to be working so hard that you’re dripping in sweat and near to collapse, a moderate intensity level is all that’s needed, enough to make you feel warmer, increase your breathing rate and your heart rate. Don’t forget, your heart is a muscle and responds to exercise like any other muscle.

Stevenage Leisure facilities all have specific  senior sessions and there’s loads of things to choose from, if you have any health problems you may be eligible for our Exercise Referral scheme. if you need any help finding the right activity for you just give us a call. You can find the nearest centre to you on our website; www.sll.co.uk

Do it now people and avoid making weird sounds when you attempt to move!

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