Those of us who have “been around” are aware that the quest and acknowledgement of the benefits of exercise for people of all ages is not new.
I recall a wonderful program in Scotland where I studied medicine, with a group leader standing on a centrally placed small stage surrounded by literally hundreds of seniors, who led them through a routine of dance and movement steps accompanied by very compelling Scottish country music themes. The compelling musical themes and beat and the “group” involvement resulted in an outstandingly successful exercise program.
Highly beneficial and “fun”
The important thing for North America’s senior population is the understanding that exercise, whether walking, running, dancing, biking, swimming or cross-country skiing, is not just for the young, but for all of us throughout a lifetime. Although the nature of the exercise might change, the importance of it in terms of sustained health benefits continues. It should be a key goal for all elderly people.
According to a number of recent medical journal reports, exercise and physical activity are important for older individuals as part of the recipe for remaining physically and mentally healthy and active. One study reported in the venerable Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that “…limited mobility is a tell-tale sign of functional decline in ageing patients”.
Evidence is compelling
The key to healthy ageing and independence therefore lies in retaining one’s mobility, according to a US study published in JAMA, authored by Cynthia Brown and Kellie Flood from the University of Alabama. Their review “confirmed that increased physical activity and exercise are extremely important for healthy aging…… A decline in mobility seems to quickly lead to an across-the-board decline, including the routine activities of daily living.”
We know from other studies that heart and brain health and function are also enhanced by continuous physical activity. According to one review of their research, “Brown and Flood recommend that physicians should ask their senior patients two questions: whether they have difficulty climbing up 10 steps or walking a quarter of a mile; and because of health or physical reasons, have they modified the way they do these two things. Any modification of a task such as climbing 10 steps raises a red flag, said Brown. However, if identified early enough, appropriate corrective measures can be taken.”
Some amount is better than no amount
To complement this recent addition to our knowledge and understanding of the benefits of exercise and physical activity in the older population is a recent study from Denmark that demonstrates that moderate exercise is an even greater motivation for a healthier lifestyle than more intensive exercise. This is important to understand for seniors and those who promote and organize exercise programs for seniors who often still believe that the goal should be maximization of efforts. Such inordinate exercise goals are often rejected by many elders who therefore drop out of the programs or sometimes unfortunately sustain injuries from the excessive intensity of the exercise effort.
To paraphrase an overused saying- “just say yes to exercise”.