The challenge of ageing
The challenge of ageing
The changes experienced as you age are something nobody can adequately prepare you for. Some of these physical changes include weakness, problems with balance, immobility, and stiff joints, all affecting your quality of life.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the proportion of people older than 60 is growing more rapidly than any other age group. Although the common rule is that increasing age is related to decreasing wellbeing and increasing levels of frailty, it is also true that individuals with the same chronological age can vary in health and functional status.

Frailty is a multi-dimensional concept that influences several domains, such as gait, mobility, balance, muscle strength, motor processing, cognition, nutrition, endurance, and physical activity and it is directly related to adverse consequences that lead to numerous challenges such as falls, disability, and even hospitalisation. These adverse outcomes often result in a considerable financial burden, and it is prudent to adopt the approach of prevention to curtail these expenses. Highlighting this concern, the WHO (2002) purported that, “In all countries, and in developing countries, in particular, measures to help older people remain healthy and active are a necessity, not a luxury”.

Enter the “Active Ageing” concept. The concept of active ageing suggested by the WHO is defined as “the process of optimising opportunities for health, participation, and security to enhance the quality of life as people age”. The idea underpinning this concept is to maximise function and quality of life for as long as possible by maintaining functional activity and participation.

Regular physical activity is widely recognised as being associated with a reduced risk of several chronic diseases and improved mental health. The WHO suggests being engaged with physical activity at least three times per week.

There are three main types of physical activity namely aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and balance training. Aerobic activity is any activity that increases your heart and breathing rate. Some examples of this include brisk walking, running, swimming, cycling, and even dancing. The aim is to do at least 10 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each time you exercise and accumulate a total of at least 150 minutes spread throughout the week.

Muscle-strengthening activity, sometimes referred to as strength/weight/resistance training or exercise, is an activity that usually includes the use of your body weight, weights, exercise bands, or machines. Some examples of these activities include bodyweight exercises, such as wall push-ups, squats, and calf raise exercises or working out at a gym using weights, resistance bands, and even machines. The aim is to do muscle-strengthening activities two or more days a week to work on all major muscle groups in the arms, shoulders, abdomen, chest, back, and legs.

Balance exercises or training involves doing exercises that strengthen the muscles that help keep you upright, including your core, legs, and back. These exercises are useful in preventing falls and maintaining overall stability. Some examples of these exercises include standing up and sitting down from a chair without using your hands, standing with your weight on one leg and raising the other leg to the side or behind you, and putting your heel right in front of your toe, like walking a tightrope. The aim is to do these exercises several days each week.

* Compiled by Dr Marc Naidoo (Ph.D. Physiotherapy), co-owner of Physiotherapy @ Home, which is a partner of Medwell SA.

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