The importance of physical activity for body and mind

We’ve all been told that physical activity and good eating habits are necessary to lead healthy lives. But do we understand how important these really are?

Up to about the age of 35, our bodies are extremely resilient. Most of us can bounce back from almost anything. But from about 35­65 years of age we move into what is sometimes known as “the problem stage.” We start to experience issues with our bodies that we never had to consider before: stubborn and consistent weight gain; spikes in our blood pressure; nagging pains in our back, our hips and our knees; low energy. These changes can be startling to those who have to this point been lucky enough to be in good health.

By the time we reach 65 plus, the problems that we were experiencing in our 40s and 50s turn into crises. The stubborn weight gain is suddenly 30 pounds, and we are on heart medication following a cardiac episode. Our chronically sore knees have made it impossible to walk and we are looking at joint replacement. Our sedentary lifestyle has become more sedentary because of chronic aches, pains and lack of energy.

There are many things we can do to increase our health and manage chronic conditions. Simple, small lifestyle changes can make a huge difference. What can you do to help your loved one stay active and strong?

  • Keep it simple. You don’t need to train for a marathon, you simply need to stay active. Do something for 30 minutes a day that gets your heart beating a little harder and gets your body moving up and down and pushing, pulling and reaching.
  • Regular daily exercise that focuses on activities of daily living are essential to maintain strength, balance and independence. Exercise classes for active seniors abound at community and independent living centres. Look for “Chair Pilates” or “Chair Yoga” classes. There are also lots of specialized programs around for Parkinson’s disease, MS, Heart Health etc.
  • It is necessary to do weight-­bearing exercises to build and maintain muscle. Weight-­bearing can mean either using your body weight or using weights and other resistance tools like bands and balls.
  • Walking is one of the best ways to add regular exercise to your daily routine. Taking your loved one to their regular doctor’s appointment? Don’t drop them at the door and then go and park the car. Walk from the parking lot! Want to go visit your mom or sister for a cup of tea? Go for a 30 min walk first.
  • Walking outdoors in the good weather is ideal but walking in a mall is just as good. Many malls have walking programs you can join. Maintaining a healthy weight will not only help manage heart conditions and diabetes, it will also do wonders for your joints.

With all the challenges in life it can be difficult to fit exercise in. But if we don’t make time for health now, we will have to make time for ill­ health later. Whether it’s a gym membership or heart medication, we are going to have to pay for it eventually. There are many things that can support better physical health and wellness for the elderly. If

you’re a caregiver, support and encourage your loved one with some simple activities that will help both their body and mind. Do it sooner for a better later.