The BBC has reported on a long-term study showing that regular exercise in old age has as powerful an effect on life expectancy as giving up smoking. They point to strong scientific evidence that people who are active have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, depression, and dementia. If you want to stay pain-free, reduce your risk of mental illness, and be able to go out and stay independent well into old age, you are advised to keep moving. As a senior home care agency in Toronto, we support our clients in staying active, and can help them plan some activity if they want to begin.
In an analysis of 5,700 elderly men in Norway, those doing three hours of exercise a week lived around five years longer than the sedentary. Even at the age of 72, men who were active had a five years longer expected lifetime.
One of the biggest benefits in staying active and exercising into the elderly years is to improve or maintain balance and stability. As a senior home care service provider, we see that falling is a huge risk to the health and independence of the elderly. How often have you heard about a senior falling and breaking a hip? Encouraging seniors to do exercises to target balance is well worth the effort.
How much exercise is needed to see the benefits?
The general advice is to achieve 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week for people over the age of 65. Trials tracking 68 to 77 year olds found that doing less than an hour a week of light exercise had no impact on health. But overall those putting in the equivalent of six 30-minute sessions of any intensity were 40% less likely to have died during the 11-year study.
It is good to think that every 10 minutes counts and that making simple, more active changes to your daily routine can set you on a path to improved heart health. The first thing to bear in mind as you get older is to keep moving. On a basic level, that means making sure you don’t spend hours on end sitting down during the day. This means avoiding long periods of TV viewing, computer use, driving, and sitting to read, talk or listen to music.
Ideas for keeping active in Toronto
The organization called Meetup is a city-dweller’s best friend. One can find a group for just about any interest, including exercise and activity. You don’t have to know anyone in order to join, and it is simple to drop in to see how you like it. There is a ladies’ 50 plus walking club in Toronto called Toronto Walking Forward. This group is geared towards women who enjoy exploring Toronto’s many parks, ravines, interesting neighborhoods, all while getting some exercise at a leisurely pace. They ask for no fast walkers or marathoners please. Women who have physical limitations are most welcome to join. There is also the Downtown Toronto Workout Group for Active Older Adults, This group is perfect for older adults interested in working out together to music from a variety of decades, genres and cultures. It’s led by a certified Group Fitness Facilitator/Personal Trainer and involves simple movements and rhythms that are adaptable to a range of fitness levels.
For seniors having difficulty leaving home
As a home care company, we can help our clients become active or stay active. If a client has been active for most of their lives, and would like some help or supervision for safety during walking or light exercise, we can help. We have one client in his late 80s who spends 30 minutes on his stationary bike every day when his personal support worker (PSW) arrives. We help him get on his bike, and make sure that he is feeling well during and after his exercise. Another client who is in his mid-nineties still goes to the gym to exercise. We help him get there, and our PSW watches him at the gym to make sure he is well and does not need help.
Watching a specialized seniors’ exercise video is a great way to begin activity for seniors who cannot easily get out of the house. Jane Fonda, a hip and knee replacement recipient, has a DVD called Fit and Strong, targeted to senior exercisers. The workouts get at nearly every muscle group, gently but thoroughly. There are also excellent stretches included and great tips on daily activities, posture, and the like. Ms. Fonda also has another DVD called Walk Out, a beginner and advanced routine for walking in your own living room, each lasting about 20 minutes, with warm-up and cool-down stretches included.
For a one-on-one personal approach, Vintage Fitness, a company specializing in helping older adults exercise and get active, have staff that come to your home for a session. Vintage Fitness will send you a Certified Older Adult Fitness Specialist to coach and motivate you. They will provide:
- A full fitness assessment including muscular strength, cardiovascular health, balance, flexibility and health history
- Development of exercise goals, a personalized exercise routine with clear pictures and explanations and a success journal to track your progress
- Nutritional consultation including on- or off-line regular food logging
- All needed equipment, even for small spaces.
If you have not exercised in years, they will start slowly and prevent you from getting injured.
Staying active in the senior years may be challenging, but is a good tool to prevent health decline. Beginning activity when you have never been active may be more difficult. Like anything, it will require interest and conviction to follow through, hopefully some of the ideas above will make this easier.