Friday, January 16, 2009

Why Should Older People Bother to be Active and to Exercise

Inactivity is a very real problem among senior citizens in the United States. The Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that approximately 28-34% of adults aged 65-74 and 35-44% of those aged 75 and older are considered inactive. Inactivity means that someone does not engage in any leisure-time physical activity. In addition, the CDC reports that only 31% of individuals aged 65-74 report participating in at least 20 minutes of moderate physical activity three or more days per week with this figure being even lower for those aged 75 or older.

One of the most fundamental questions that will be asked by many elderly persons when encouraged to be more active and to exercise is “why.” If you are not prepared to deal with this question, you probably will not be very successful in helping your elderly loved one stay active.

A good way to answer the “why” question is to understand the difference between chronological and functional aging. We have all seen 1964 Ford Mustangs automobiles on the road. Some are in great operating shape while others may be in varying degrees of disrepair. All of these 1964 Mustangs have the same chronological age (45 years as of 2009) but vary in functional age because of their condition. Clearly, some of these automobiles are “functioning” better than others. Well, it is the same for people. If we focus solely on someone’s chronological age, we are missing quite a bit of information about that person’s functioning ability and potential. At 45 years of age, the 1964 Mustangs on the road are not all the same, so there is hope for people too!

There are actually important physiological, psychological, and social benefits to being active that clearly makes it one of the most important factors in maintaining a high quality of life for the elderly. Exercise and activity can:

• Improve the quality of sleep, reduce arthritis pain, improve cardiovascular and pulmonary functioning, lower blood pressure, and improve flexibility.
• Enhance relaxation and reduced stress and anxiety, postpone age-related declines in central nervous system processing speed and improve reaction times, and improve mental health.
• Divert attention from problems, create and enhance friendships, and provide empowerment to want to be more involved in life.

The evidence is compelling that activity and exercise can have very positive impacts on an older person’s physical, psychological, and social well-being. However, the high incidence of inactivity among the elderly suggests that there may be a disconnect between our understanding of the benefits of activity and exercise and the utilization of this knowledge among older people. One of the most commonly cited reasons for this disconnect is the lack of education available to senior citizens about the benefits of physical activity and exercise. That is where people like you come in – becoming a conduit for passing important information and encouragement on to your elderly friends and loved ones about the benefits of “keeping active.”

Click here for more information about how to help elderly loved ones stay active and healthy

1 comment:

  1. Getting proper exercise seems to be the best prevention or solution of a lot of problems regarding your health. It's why I don't find it too surprising why elderly should stay active. I think that if you don't have time to help keep you elderly loved one active, it might be time to consider assisted living.