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Physical activity and


older adults NUTRITION


HOW CAN ACTIVITY HELP AS YOU GET OLDER? Immobility, particularly among frail older adults with many illnesses, can lead to further complications. These can be reduced through movement. These complications might include: n Deep vein thrombosis (clotting). n Swelling of the legs as a result of an accumulation of fluid. n Pressure sores. n Severe constipation.


Maintaining independence Regular activity can help maintain mobility and independent living and evidence shows it will help to maintain your ability to get on with everyday tasks such as: n The strength to lift objects. n Flexibility to wash your hair or tie your shoes. n Balance and agility to climb stairs or use the bus. n Coordination and dexterity to open a door with a key or grasp a moving object.


n Speed to cross a road at a pedestrian crossing before the traffic light changes to green.


n Muscle endurance to walk to the shops. n The ability to continue living an independent life and play with your grandchildren.


A thought: After the age of 30, strength, bone density, flexibility and aerobic capacity are all lost at the rate of about 10% per decade. A week’s bed rest will reduce your muscular strength by up to 20% and at the same time, bone strength will reduce by


WHAT TYPE OF ACTIVITY IS BEST?


While stamina-based activity is particularly important for health benefits, you also need to include some strength and flexibility- based activity to get the best health gains. Stamina-type activities: Walking, swimming, cycling, dancing, tennis and housework (washing floors or windows) Strength-type activities: Walking uphill, carrying shopping, climbing stairs, gardening (digging or mowing) and housework Flexibility-type activities: Dancing, yoga, Pilates, T’ai Chi and gardening


Tips on increasing your activity level n Walking is an ideal activity as it’s free and easy to do anywhere. Perhaps take a dog for a walk to make it more interesting or use a pedometer to count your steps.


n Look for opportunities to be active during your whole day. For example park at the far end of the car park, or walk one stop further to catch the bus, and take 10 minutes out of your lunch break to go for a walk.


n Try using the stairs instead of the escalator. If you do use the escalator start by walking part of the way up and progress to walking up the whole way.


n Choose activities that you enjoy doing. Involve your friends and family to make your activities fun, sociable and enjoyable.


1%. However regular progressive strength training over 3-6 months can increase strength by 10-20%, setting the clock back by 10-20 years.


STAYING SAFE n If you do not know how much physical activity you can do safely or you have other medical concerns such as heart problems eg. angina, or joint problems eg. arthritis, ask your GP or practice nurse for advice.


n Make sure you start slowly and build up to the recommended levels. Avoid high intensity, high impact activities, for example jumping up and down. This puts unnecessary stress on your joints. n Wear appropriate and comfortable footwear.


If you experience any of the following problems stop exercising and ask for medical advice from your GP or contact NHS Direct on 0845 4647: n Discomfort in your chest or upper body n Uncomfortable or severe breathlessness brought on by physical activity


n Dizziness or nausea on exertion n Fainting during or just after doing activity n Palpitations (a very fast or irregular heart beat) during activity.


MORE INFORMATION


n Age UK - 0800 169 6565 or www.ageuk.org.uk n British Heart Foundation - 08450 708070 or www.bhf.org.uk


HOW MUCH AND HOW OFTEN?


Frequency Your main aim is to build up to 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity on 5 or more days of the week. If this seems too much to start with, try starting with 3 x 10 minute walks spread throughout the day and work towards 2 x 15 minute walks and then 30 continuous minutes. One goal is to try and increase your activity by 2 minutes each day.


Intensity Moderate intensity means breathing harder and getting warmer than normal. It does not need to be hard. You should be able to talk and be active at the same time.


Advice Whatever your chosen activity, it should be performed at a gentle intensity which gradually increases until after about 10 minutes you have reached the level you can maintain for your chosen period of activity. This gets the blood flowing to your muscles and allows your heart rate to increase gradually. When you are nearing the end of your activity you should also slowly decrease the level of activity over 5-10 minutes to allow your heart rate to slow down gradually.


Remember Set yourself realistic goals and don’t worry if you miss one day. Just make sure that the next day you pick up where you left off.


www.exerciseregister.org


The information contained in this article is intended as general guidance and information only and should not be relied upon as a basis for planning individual medical care or as a substitute for specialist medical advice in each individual case. To the extent permissible by law, the publisher, editors and contributors accept no liability for any loss, injury or damage howsoever incurred (including negligence) as a consequence, whether directly or indirectly, of the use by any person of the contents of this article.


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