WHO defines physical activity as movements of the body that require energy through the use of skeletal muscles. Regular physical activity has proven to be beneficial among the elderly by preventing and managing cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, cerebrovascular diseases, skeletal disorders, and several cancers. Additionally, it also improves an individual’s mental health by reducing stress hormones and improves immunity, and quality of life.
One of the main components of healthy aging is the adoption of a regular exercise regimen. Lack of exercise among the elderly leads to loss of independence, a decline in brain function, comorbidities such as sudden heart attacks, faster institutionalization, and early mortality.
Elderly adults need at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week to get their cardiovascular system to function normally.
First and foremost, they can start by performing some light activities such as cleaning the house, climbing stairs, doing laundry, and gardening instead of being sedentary for a long period of time.
They can also perform some aerobic activities such as jogging, walking, and swimming and some muscle-strengthening exercises such as weightlifting which could be lifting a shopping bag or anything heavy.
Dr. Glin Luckose Fernandez, MBBS, MPH (Research Assistant, University of Manchester) recommends that an individual requires 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise a week, or a combination of two as they are vital for the heart and the body as a whole. She also recommends moderate to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activities two days per week.
However, the elderly population faces certain challenges and has concerns about performing physical activities. Most of them suffer from chronic back aches and joint pains which causes a lack of motivation. So, they must be advised by their physician that these ailments get aggravated if they adopt a sedentary lifestyle instead of medications and physical therapy.
Fear of falling and injury is another legitimate cause for restricted movements. To overcome this fear, they can use appropriate equipment such as walkers, and crutches, and can be supervised by a physical therapist with their balance and strength training exercises.
Therefore, a healthy and happy elderly individual is someone who follows a regular exercise regimen and has a good quality of life.