It is noticeably clear that as we age so does our level of physical activity. It has been found that many non-communicable chronic diseases are associated with a decrease in physical activity. Then combine this lack of physical activity and increased ageing where there is already an increased risk of developing these non-communicable chronic diseases, then one can see the direct link between decreased physical activity and increased mortality.
The five leading risk factors for death are smoking, hypertension, diabetes, physical inactivity, and obesity.
Along with these risk factors of non-communicable diseases there is also the natural decline of an ageing persons physiological systems:
• Loss of muscle mass
• Decline in ability to balance
• Reduction in muscular strength
• Reduction in muscular endurance
• Decline in cognitive performance
All of these affect a person’s functional independence, which suggests that by increasing physical activity is the most important way to improve our older populations health and quality of life. As one ages it becomes important to prolong life, yet without functional independence there is little quality of life. Therefore, it should be of high importance to maintain physical activity, especially as one ages, to improve your quality of life.
By increasing physical activity levels (strength, aerobic fitness, balance, and incidental physical activity) there is a positive effect both for mortality as well as improving functional independence.
Benefits of exercising in senior and ageing adults:
• Prevent Disease
Exercise helps prevent many common diseases (e.g. heart disease or diabetes). It helps improve immune function which is important as often in older individuals your immune system becomes compromised. Even the slightest bit of exercises such as walking for 30 minutes a day makes an exponential difference to prevent disease management.
• Improved Mental Health
Exercise produces endorphins (feel good hormone) which helps act as a stress reliever which leaves you feeling happy and satisfied within. It has been linked to improve your sleep patterns which is often a problem as you age.
• Decrease Risk of Falls
Falling as you age is one of the highest reasons for mortality as one gets older. It takes seniors much longer to recover from falls. Exercise helps improve strength and flexibility which in turn helps improve balance and coordination, decreasing the risk of falls.
• Social Engagement
Exercise is a great way of maintaining social ties, which helps aging adults feel a sense of purpose as well as avoid any feelings such as loneliness and depression.
• Improved Cognitive Function
Dementia is a harsh reality as one ages, many studies have proven that exercise can help slow down the decline of ones cognitive function.
Exercise no matter your age is the best form of medicine one can receive. It becomes a matter of making it a priority and a habit in your day-to-day life. At the end of the day, you need to make it a lifestyle and find a form of exercise that you love, and it will never become a chore.