Physical Activity Among Seniors
Health for Life -- Senior Physical Activity-Falls
Marita Campbell, Public Health Nurse
Q: I am 68 years old and recently retired. My family says that I spend too much time watching television and not enough time being active. I could get more exercise but shouldn’t someone my age take it easy to avoid falling and maybe breaking my hip?
A: First let me congratulate you on your retirement. It is a major transition in life when you no longer have to meet the demands that work puts on your time. It is an opportunity to relax and take it easy, but also an opportunity to make changes in your physical activity level that can actually improve your health.
It is important that you don’t look at retirement as a time to slow down. Try to keep the level of strength and agility you have. Engaging in regular, moderate physical activity will make you feel better, perhaps sleep better, improve the health of your heart and also lessen your risk for falls. A fear of falling often causes people to stay indoors and avoid physical activity. If you were to do this, the inactivity could lead to loss of flexibility and bone and muscle strength that actually puts you at a greater risk for falls and injuries.
Since you have not been active recently, you should talk to your doctor or health-care provider before making big changes. Start with activities you can easily add to your daily routine that will build your endurance, flexibility, strength and balance. Here are a few examples to get you started:
Take a 10-minute walk each day, gradually increasing the pace and distance. In cold weather, meet your friends at Intercity Shopping Centre and take part in the Shake, Chatter and Stroll Program.
Gardening, yard work, golf, bowling, T’ai Chi or anything that gets you bending stretching or reaching will help you meet your flexibility needs.
Strength & Balance:
Climbing the stairs, carrying laundry or groceries or even standing up and sitting down several times in a row will put you on your way to building your strength and balance.
Even if you have not been very active, you will see that once you make a commitment to regular activity, you’ll have more energy and find yourself spending less time in front of the television. Start with small steps but try something, anything you enjoy doing. Even a little bit of exercise every day will make a big difference.
Despite the well-established benefits of physical activity for older adults, seniors ages 75 and above are among the most sedentary of Americans. Staying active even though ones retirement may be difficult, but it is just as important. Especially now with the baby boomer generation going into retirement.