DON’T act your age – act your shoe size!

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We all know about getting our kids up-n-active.

We see information online, on TV and in magazines telling us to lead by example, to let our kids watch us exercising and to follow our lead, to make activity an important part of our day and theirs.

But what about the other way around? What about kids influencing parents?

Ok, so I’m not really talking about young kids here – but I am talking about us “grown-up” kids. We know so much these days about the importance of exercise, and we often bend over backwards to make sure our children get those 60 minutes of activity each day.

Now I think it’s time that we share this information with our parent’s generation.

I don’t mean to sound condescending here, like “right mam and dad – you don’t know what’s good for you so I’m going to tell you what to do”. I’m really talking about a sharing of information, encouragement – letting those who may have grown up in a generation told to “expect” to feel old at a certain age and to just accept it that this is no longer the case.

But why should we do this? Why should we get our folks up and moving if they’ve let exercise slide in their lives?

Research here in Ireland recently has found that over half of the population over 50 are not exercising enough. This is often attributed to injury or health concerns, such as arthritis, back and joint problems, and mobility.

But in reality, choosing the correct exercise has massive benefits when it comes to these issues associated with aging.

Here are my top benefits to exercise for over 50’s.

  • Regardless of age, everyone should get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week to maintain good health. This amounts to just over 20 minutes of moderate activity daily – and it can come in many forms. It could be walking, a few trips up-and-down the stairs, cycling, dancing, gardening, strength and weights… And this 20+ minutes helps to improve cardio fitness, maintain healthy weight, keep joints supple and muscles strong, and also improve cognitive function.
  • Many people who suffer with aging-related arthritis often believe they shouldn’t exercise. But on the contrary, exercise is crucial for people with arthritis. It increases strength and flexibility, reduces joint pain, and helps combat fatigue. The most important point to remember when it comes to arthritis is to choose the correct exercise routine. Aerobic activities such as swimming and cycling can be really beneficial as they have less impact on joints that may already be painful. Strength programs (using weights) are also a great addition for people suffering with arthritis as it strengthens the muscles around the joints and can also help with bone strengthening. So don’t be afraid to test the waters.
  • Exercise and balance – Falls are a major public health problem and they are deemed the most common cause of injury in over 65s specifically. This is due to a combination of factors, two of which are balance and bone density. As we get older, our balance can disimprove due to laxity in the joints, poorer eyesight and hearing loss among other things. In addition, our bones also become more brittle with age. So this unhappy combination leads to more falls, and subsequently more injuries resulting from these falls. Doing exercises to improve balance, and also weight-bearing exercises to improve bone density, can have a significant positive effect. If you would like to know how much exercise is needed for this, I would recommend 10 minutes of balance exercises, plus 15 minutes of weight-bearing exercises 3 times a week.
  • Exercise can “add life to your years” – Without wanting to sound kitsch, exercise is not just about adding years to our lives – it’s about adding life to our years! The fitter and healthier we feel, the more likely we are to have a positive quality of life. Our sense of self-confidence is intrinsically linked to how independent and secure we feel in ourselves. And being physically fit and active helps us to feel strong and confident, which can have only a positive impact on our lives.
  • The many benefits of joining a group fitness class – So you might have managed to convince your mum or dad that they should get their arses in gear and get fit. But they have no idea where to start! One recommendation is to join a fitness class. There are lots of options out there these days, depending on the level and type of activity they’re looking for. There are dance groups, sports clubs and tailored fitness classes for all age groups. And there are other benefits to joining a group that far exceed the physical benefits. There is a sense of community, reduction in feelings of isolation, group activities and excursions are often organized through these groups too. All this can have a really positive effect on a persons overall sense of health & wellbeing.

And no matter what our age, ability or interests – isn’t that what we would all love to have?!

Below are a few resources on the health benefits of exercise, and a list of activities that are beneficial.

If you are in the Galway area, you might want to check out our Over 55’s fitness class it’s fun, tailored and will provide 60 of those 150 minutes of weekly exercise in one class!

Article on exercise and bone density

Article on exercise to ease arthritis

Infographic on exercise benefits

Exercise myths for over 60s BUSTED

Over 50s exercise suggestions

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