All Woman

Exercise and the elderly

By NADINE WILSON All Woman writer wilsonn@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, October 15, 2012    

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ONE of the best kept secrets to living longer and feeling better is to exercise. This is especially the case if you are a senior citizen and want to prolong your life.

President of the Jamaica Midlife Group, Dr Fay Whitbourne, says a lot of focus should be placed on balancing-type exercises, although exercise generally is good for the elderly.

"In every way it improves health," she says. "It improves strength, it improves flexibility, it improves balance, it improves cardiovascular function and it strengthens your bones."

So if you are over 60-years-old and want to keep cardiovascular diseases and other health complications at bay, your best bet would be to stay active. Exercising is even more necessary if you are already diagnosed with a health condition such as diabetes or hypertension.

Why should you exercise?

1. It reduces the impact of chronic diseases. Exercise helps to improve your immune function so you won't be easily susceptible to the common flu. It also helps to stabilise your blood pressure and protects your heart. Exercising also lowers your risk of conditions such as diabetes, Alzheimer's, obesity and colon cancer.

2. It helps to boost your mood. Endorphins produced during exercise help you to feel good about yourself and reduces feelings of depression. It minimises stress and also helps to build your self-esteem.

3. It improves mobility and balance. Exercising helps to minimise the effects of chronic conditions such as arthritis. Doing resistance training, especially, will build your strength. This will in turn improve your balance and posture so you won't easily fall.

How to begin your exercise programme

1. It is important that you get clearance from your doctor before beginning any exercise programme, especially if you have a pre-existing health condition.

2. Invest in proper gears that will help you feel comfortable while working out. Make sure to wear athletic type shoes and loose fitting clothing so blood can circulate.

3. Find a workout regime that you are most likely to stick to. If you live near a park or in a residential community, for example, you can commit to walking in the mornings for a few minutes or in the evenings when the sun is down.

4. Start slowly and do not over-exert yourself. If you are a beginner, you can start by walking, for example, for about 15 minutes, and then gradually build your endurance. Remember to slow down if you start to feel dizzy and be sure to breathe properly while exercising.

Types of exercises you can do

1. Walking.

If you are a retiree, you can start a walking group with a few more senior citizens in your neighbourhood. You can use these walks to catch up on what is happening in each other's lives or discuss what's happening in society.

2. Swimming.

This is a low impact exercise that still gives you a good workout. This exercise is especially good if you have arthritis or have problems getting around.

3. Aerobics.

Group aerobics classes are a great way to stay fit and healthy as you age. Check around to see whether your community centre offers these classes and make use of them. If there are no such classes available, you can purchase exercise DVDs and have some friends over to work out with you.

4. Light strength training.

It is advised that you use no more than five-pound dumbbells if you are just starting out. You can also use water bottles if you do not have any dumbbells. Squats can be done using a chair at home or you could use a broomstick to do some twists.

5. Yoga or Pilates.

This helps to improve strength, flexibility and balance and also helps you to breathe better.

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