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Active Voice || Challenging the myths of living stronger for longer

Thursday, October 31, 2019

We all know exercise is important for maintaining wellness, and this is true throughout the whole lifespan. But picking up a new type of exercise in older age can be daunting and can come with lots of questions. Our Keep on Your Feet project leader breaks down some of the myths.

KOYF class photos (62)_promo

Research shows strength and balance exercise in older age is effective at reducing the risk of falls, as well as improving movement confidence and reducing social isolation. Many people I deal with, however, have a lot of questions about being active as they age that stem from common myths. So it's time for some mythbusting!

“Falling is inevitable with age – I’ll just deal with it when it happens”

Falling is not part of the natural aging process, and it does not have to be accepted as inevitable. Strength and balance is the most modifiable risk factor when it comes to falls, with 80 per cent of falls occurring due to a lack of strength and balance.

“Strength training is unsafe/pointless for someone my age”

Although the thought of exercising can be daunting, there's actually a greater risk in not exercising at all. A lack of exercise leads to immobility, as well as decreased muscle mass and bone density. All of these increase the risk of falling, and reduce independence and functionality as we age.

“I’ve never really exercised – It’s too late to start now”

Did you know you still have all the muscle fibres that you had when you were young? For this reason, it is never too late to start exercising, with basic exercise showing functional and physiological improvements well into your 90s. Even if you have never exercised, benefits can still be gained at any age.

“I have arthritis so I can’t do it”

Exercise can be daunting, especially if you have arthritic or painful joints. While exercise with sore joints can be scary, it is important for the prevention and management of arthritis. When joints move during exercise, the body produces synovial fluid to lubricate the joints which then decreases pain and helps with joint range of motion. If the exercise is weight bearing (walking), additional benefits include improving bone density which then decreases the chance of developing brittle bones and osteoporosis.

“I can’t exercise because I have heart issues/lung issues”

If you have health conditions, it is recommended to seek medical advice from your doctor before partaking in an exercise programme. Provided the all clear is given, exercise is incredibly beneficial for managing many heart conditions. The heart is a muscle, and needs exercise just like any other muscle in order to remain strong. Exercise can improve the strength of the heart and help it to be an efficient pump to distribute blood around the body while also decreasing resting blood pressure.

Lung conditions such as COPD and asthma can also benefit from exercise (again, check with your doctor to make sure your activities are suitable for you). Aerobic exercise (cardio) is important for improving oxygen uptake into the muscles, while also improving energy and decreasing symptoms. Due to the debilitating nature of COPD, deterioration of muscle mass is also common, and this is why strength training is also very important for this population.

For strength and balance classes in your area, check out the Sport BOP website below, or phone Rachel Garden on 021 191 6544

Find a Keep on Your Feet class

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