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Published By Nuala Duignan on July 02, 2017

That time of the year when the sun shines and bright  long evenings provide ample opportunity of all generations to get out and about walking, cycling or even the odd swim in the sea!.  

Research studies prove that exercise is the No. 1 way to improve our health as we grow older. On average, seniors who exercise:

  • live longer,
  •  decrease their risk of a host of ailments
  • better manage their existing health conditions. 
  • Improve their mood,
  •  lowers their pain level and 
  • enjoy better functioning overall
  •  And most experts agree that exercise is the best "prescription" for brain health.

If a healthy body and mind aren't enough motivation, what about a healthy bank account?  Exercise has been proven to lower healthcare costs—both for the country's health services and the individual.

Even among an established high-risk group such as those diagnosed with heart disease or stroke, those who engage in regular exercise activities are known to have a much lower risk of being hospitalized, having an hospital emergency visit or use of prescription medications.  There is no better "pill" in reducing the risk of disease and healthcare costs than optimizing physical activity.

People of every age can benefit from regular physical activity. It's never too late to start! No matter what your age or health status, an appropriate exercise program can improve your health and quality of life. Talk to your doctor or district nurse immediately about beginning an exercise program.

The doctor will probably recommend three types of exercise:

  • Aerobic exercise, which includes walking, swimming, dancing—anything that makes the heart pump faster and makes us breathe a little harder.
  • Flexibility exercises, such as light stretches or yoga or pilates, to improve range of motion and freedom of movement.
  • Balance exercises, such as tai chi, to improve our sense of position and reduce the risk of falls.

Be sure to speak to your doctor before beginning an exercise program. Certain activities may be adapted, or in some cases not recommended, for people with health conditions such as heart failure, arthritis, osteoporosis, balance impairment or high blood pressure. As you begin, supervised exercise may be recommended at first.

Also of note: Today, like all ages, many older people can be overweight. Maintaining a healthy weight is a worthy goal, and exercise helps. Even if a person doesn't lose weight, it's good to know that a March 2017 study published by the European Society of Cardiology reported that exercising is even more beneficial than losing weight for obese individuals of every age. However, some older people who are overweight sometimes hesitate to take part in an exercise class, fearing that they will be injured, or unable to keep up, or that they will be embarrassed by their appearance. Today, there are programs especially for overweight people to help them exercise in a positive, safe environment.

Where can you find an exercise program for older adults? Check out the offerings of your local community centre, senior center or private health clubs. Or form your own exercise club—working out with friends can be motivating! Some people prefer to work out at home, perhaps using a video.

If you or a loved one uses in-home care, the caregiver can provide supervision and encouragement during exercise, indoors or out.

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