Exercise protects your physical health and boosts mental wellbeing, making it important to leading a happy life. Working out is therefore important for people of all ages, although it becomes increasingly so as you age.
If you’ve been avoiding it, starting your fitness journey can be intimidating, particularly if you come to it late in life. There are many ways to get into shape and having this wide range of choices can be overwhelming.
You may be wondering how to help an older relative overcome these barriers to getting fit. Here, Lottie lends a hand, exploring why exercise is so important for the elderly and recommending fun ways to incorporate it into your loved one’s day.
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Evidence indicates that exercise can reduce the risk of developing a wide range of conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, depression and dementia.
Also, daily workouts can strengthen muscles and reduce the risk elderly people losing their balance. If a fear of falling is preventing you or someone you know from getting moving, beginning with light, low intensity exercise will help to build stability and increase mobility.
This all means that keeping fit is essential to protecting your health and quality of life as you age.
The amount of exercise required is dependent on your relative’s current level of activity and the intensity of their movement.
According to NHS guidance, adults over 65 should include at least 150 minutes of ‘moderate’ or 75 minutes of ‘vigorous’ intensity activity in their week. Both levels increase your heart rate and breathing, but during ‘moderate’ you should be able to maintain a conversation, which you should not be able to do easily in ‘vigorous’.
In addition to this training, it’s recommended that older adults engage in light movement each day. Also, workouts to improve balance and flexibility should be done twice each week.
To assist those of you wanting to encourage an elderly relative to exercise more, Lottie have compiled a list of engaging activities that make working out a pleasure.
The health benefits of swimming are endless. A low impact form of aerobic exercise, even just a few lengths of the pool will get your relative’s heart rate up and improve their breathing.
Water-based movement also moderates the pressure put on the arms, legs and back during exercise. As elderly people are more likely to experience joint pains, this can make swimming a particularly healthy way for them to get moving.
Swimming alone can be great fun, but if your relative is unsure, you could go with them. This can turn an intimidating task into a pleasant social occasion!
One of the great advantages of living in the UK is its wealth of stunning landscapes. Exploring the British countryside is always enjoyable, meaning a long nature walk can be a fantastic way to make getting healthy more enjoyable!
Walking would generally be considered a moderate level of exercise, but you should be mindful of your relative’s ability. If they have limited mobility, starting with short walks and building the length over time would be advisable.
If you think being surrounded by nature may help to engage your relative, you could plan trips with them to experience some of Britain’s most iconic walks.
Not only is it fantastic fun, but dancing is also a brilliant way to keep active. Numerous studies have shown the extensive benefits of moving to music, including improved overall physical health, easing of joint pain, and boosted mental wellbeing.
Depending on the style and tempo, dance could be a moderate or vigorous level of activity. Either way, ensure your relative is up on their feet for long enough to get their blood pumping and for their brain to release endorphins.
Dancing is particularly suited to people who are resistant to exercise, as the music and social aspects can make the experience fly by. For those interested, there are a range of companies that offer classes specialised to the needs of older people.
A low-cost way to get around, hopping on a bike also has many health benefits. With the government having pledged £2 billion in 2020 to make Britain a cycling nation, there’s never been a better time to get into the sport.
A low-impact but vigorous exercise, riding a bike offers a great workout, without a high risk of straining joints. This means it’s well suited to the elderly.
For those people who struggle with socialising, cycling allows for exploration, without the need to interact with too many people. However, if your relative would prefer to exercise with company, there are cycling groups they can join to add that social element.
Tough Mudder is one of the country's most popular assault courses. For elderly people who relish a challenge, training towards the goal of completing such an event can be incredibly rewarding.
Although you must be cautious of your relative’s capabilities, you also shouldn’t assume that age will hinder them. The oldest person to have finished a Tough Mudder was Mildred Wilson from the US, who completed the event at 81-years of age!
Taking on an obstacle course together would be a great bonding experience for you both, as well as allow you to support your relative. You can sign up on the Tough Mudder UK.
By adding a competitive element, joining a sports team could motivate your relative and engage them with exercise. Whether it’s walking football or tag rugby, getting healthy is turned into a fun game, rather than an onerous chore.
Further, joining a sports team provides opportunities to meet new people. Given that loneliness is a common problem amongst the elderly, these social spaces are essential.
Whether your relative is experienced with the sport or would like to try a new one, many local clubs accept people of all ages and ability. Take a look in your area to see what’s available!
Providing a safe, monitored space to start exercising, gyms enable a wide range of activities. This makes it perfect for those who crave variety in their routine.
Gyms generally provide dedicated spaces for weight and cardio training, which can both help to protect the mobility and overall health of older people.
In addition, many gyms also provide a calendar of classes, in which an instructor leads you through a workout. This can make exercising easier if you are inexperienced or benefit from a coach to spur you on.
Joining with your family member will make the gym even more enjoyable and allow you to provide support if they are nervous about attending.
And that concludes Lottie’s recommendations of fun ways to encourage elderly people to exercise. Getting back into shape can be difficult, but the mental and physical benefits it’ll bring to your relative will certainly be worth it.