10 Sep
2021

 

Juli-Ann Riley of Riley Physiotherapists explores the concept of healthy ageing.

The WHO defines healthy ageing as “the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables wellbeing in older age,” however it means something different to each and every person. The beautiful thing about it is that no matter what chronic condition, ache or pain, body shape or size you may be, you can still age well.  As physiotherapists who treat many patients of this age group, we have learnt a lot.

Globally, 1 in 4 adults does not meet the recommended levels of physical activity. The scary truth is that those who are insufficiently active have a 20-30% increased risk of death compared to those who are sufficiently active. So, how does one achieve this? This is where we can step in to help.

Adults over the age of 50 should aim for 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75-150 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week. Those over 65 should be doing exercises focusing on functional balance and strength, training at least three days a week to enhance functional capacity and most importantly prevent falls. These recommendations may seem complex, but are in fact is very simple and achievable.

Aim to be physically active every day. Something we always tell our patients is that any activity is better than none. Little things matter – such as reducing the time spent sitting or lying down. Aim to try and move around every 20 minutes – even if it means just standing up on the spot. And don’t forget the importance of fresh air, sun and trees. According to a study in the Journal of Aging and Health, adults over 70 who spent time outdoors experienced improved sleep, less complaint about aches and pains, and enjoyed improved ability to perform everyday activities of living. In present times, with the ongoing pandemic, we have opted for outdoor rehab sessions with our patients where possible. Nature combined with physical activity is proven to help fight depression and anxiety.

So, what counts as moderate-intensity activity? Among others, water aerobics, brisk walking, doubles tennis, and even pushing a lawnmower. Vigorous-intensity activity includes singles tennis, hiking on uneven terrain, aerobics and jogging. As you can see, you don’t have to be part of a gym or go to a specific exercise class to achieve your weekly recommended physical activity. Most importantly, exercise must be enjoyable – so make it enjoyable for YOU.

When it comes to strength and balance exercises, this is usually where one may require guidance from a healthcare professional in terms of a correct exercise programme – particularly important when it comes to the prevention of falls. There are a few small things that you yourself can do:

  • At home, use non-slip mats and rugs. Remove any clutter, trailing wires and frayed carpets. Fit your shower with grab rails for getting in and out, and make sure that there is a grip mat in your shower and bath.
  • Avoid walking on bare surfaces in socks or tights. Rather wear supportive slippers with a good rubber sole or wear proper lace-up shoes.
  • Avoid long, trailing clothes that might trip you up.
  • Take particular care when getting up at night. Make sure you have an accessible lamp to switch on, and if you are on medication that could cause dizziness or drowsiness, invest in a walking frame.

Riley Physiotherapists have had the privilege of providing their services in the Upper Highway area for 18 years. A large part of the practice is dedicated to home visits, which deal a lot with the elderly. This encompasses may different conditions including Parkinsons, stroke, general weakness, arthritis, mobility and balance issues, post-hospital rehab, joint replacements, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.

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