Tue. Dec 10th, 2019

Physical Activity

Physical activity of seniors – it is not too late for it! You know for sure that regular exercise is full of advantages. How to convince our grandparents to do it?

The father of medicine, Hippocrates, used to say that walks and exercise are the best medicine for a man. It seems, however, that over the centuries this important message has been lost in a world that seems to be sitting all the time.

We have accepted that aging can mean weakness, sensitivity and illness, as well as the fact that older people experience their last years of life instead of drawing on them with a full handful. This should not be the case.

Aging from the point of view of health…

We are well aware that aging increases the risk of complications of diseases such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, hypertension or osteoporosis, but we are able to reduce them and prevent their occurrence. Regular physical activity also contributes to slowing down aging.

How do aging processes affect the human body?

  • Skeleton

With age, bone density decreases, which decreases their resistance. It also predisposes to easier formation of fractures, which are also much more difficult to grow together, because aging concerns mainly osteoblasts, i.e. cells producing bone tissue.

Attention should also be paid to degenerative changes with age, which may result in joint pain, and limitation of motor functions.

  • The circulatory system

Heart and vascular diseases may manifest themselves at different ages, but among the elderly we can observe a decrease in the elasticity of muscle cells that form the heart. This worsens its contractility, and the arteries and tissues covering the blood vessels are also thickened. The changes also affect the level of arterial pressure – most often there is hypertension among seniors – because the heart does much more work by pumping blood to thicker, stiffer vessels.

  • The nervous system

With age, the blood flow through the brain vessels decreases by about 15-20%.There is also a reduction in the number of grey matter neurons and hippocampus, which are responsible for all kinds of memory processes. However, these changes do not necessarily impede the thinking process – this is only the case with additional disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Sensory organs

Over time, the function of sight and hearing deteriorates. These disorders significantly affect the balance of movement, which can increase the number of falls. Other functions, tastes, smells and sensations also dull over time, which means that cognitive abilities in older people can be very limited.

What does the science say about active aging say?

Scientific research has shown that regular training and physical exercise improve bone density and condition, prevent fractures, which are so common among seniors, and help to maintain muscle strength and joint movement. It also improves mental functions and facilitates everyday activities.

By 2050, seniors are expected to make up a quarter of the total population of the European Union, which is why it is so important to take care of their needs, including physical exercise. It is worth noting, however, that only 17% of men and only 13% of women aged over 65 are physically active enough.

The good news is that there is a remedy that we can use safely. According to the indications of the World Health Organization, 150 minutes of activity with a medium level of difficulty is needed, or half of that time – if we choose activities with higher intensity, unless of course there are no contraindications.

What can we train with our grandparents?

  • Walking, Nordic walking

Apart from the fact that regular walks contribute positively to reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. Activity in the fresh air also increases the absorption of vitamin D, which has a positive effect on the bone condition.

  • Yoga or Pilates

A very large number of positions that are used in these activities is aimed at improving stability, which at the same time limits the number of falls to which seniors are exposed. Such calm activities also contribute to lowering blood pressure and – as scientific research shows – improve the breathing pattern. It is also worth noting that these exercises are preferred by the elderly, because they are performed exceptionally calmly.

  • Group activities: dancing or “healthy spine”.

This is a great proposition, which will allow you to include regular, liked activities in the plan of the week, but also to create new friendships and spend time with friends. Usually classes for older people are conducted in smaller groups, which additionally allows the trainer or instructor to correct possible mistakes and identify the most appropriate solutions for a given senior citizen.

  • Swimming

Thanks to the fact that it is an activity that relieves joints, it is great for those elderly people who suffer from everyday pain related to them. It should also be noted that water sports activities also reduce stress and improve moods. For those who do not know how to swim well, there are also exercises in shallower water or using straps and various buoyancy elements to reduce anxiety.

What is worth paying attention to in physical activity of older people?

An extremely important topic before physical activity is to assess the health condition of the person who is to undertake the activity. Therefore, it is worth referring to a physician who will order a number of basic examinations, as well as evaluate the heart rate. However, if for some reason the above mentioned physical activities are not recommended, there is also another option.

This is medical training, which is tailored individually to the needs of the patient. It includes, among others, exercises improving mobility, learning how to fall safely, how to change your position, exercises improving hand functions, as well as general exercises.

What are the positive effects of regular physical activity?

Regular physical activity brings many health benefits. Not only are these effects seen with the naked eye, but they also include improvement of mood or mental abilities. Aging does not have to be associated with limitations, and physical activity is the first step to alleviate them.

How can physiotherapists help seniors?

We understand what aging processes are connected with and how many changes they bring. Physiotherapy centre teach older people what activities they should choose, what kind of exercises will be the best for them, as well as we help them when they experience pain.