Wellington – The golden years can be the most enjoyable years of people’s lives and New Zealand exercise experts say regular exercise is a golden ticket for those who strive for elderly independence.
- More than 300,000 Kiwis are aged 75 years plus and figures from the 2013 census showed 31 percent of people aged 75-84 years still lived in a private dwelling.
- Not surprisingly, the percentage of people suffering from arthritis and chronic pain increases with age – arthritis affecting more than half of people over the age of 75.
Exercise New Zealand (ExerciseNZ) chief executive Richard Beddie says Kiwis who strive to experience a good quality of life and maintain their independence as they grow older are at a huge advantage if they keep physically active and view exercise as a form of medicine to prevent and treat injuries or illnesses.
“Physical activity can play a significant role in ageing well and is essential in helping older Kiwis to be resilient, overcome potential health obstacles and take control of their lives, Beddie says.
“Arthritis is a challenging illness and suffering from chronic pain makes it hard for people of any age to stay motivated to exercise. Research shows that being less sedentary and exercising can improve pain tolerance, reduce fatigue and boost the mood.
“Having good balance helps prevent falls that can cause debilitating injuries and being physically strong makes activities such as climbing stairs, gardening, cleaning and grocery shopping a realistic option for the elderly.
“Exercise is increasingly being accepted as a viable preventative and treatment tool within the health sector, especially to promote healthy ageing or for those living with long term conditions,” Beddie says.
Reduction of activity causes decline in physical fitness
Wellington’s All Active personal trainer Rachel Marks has worked with clients as old as 84 and says many people think their physical fitness declines with age but it is the reduction of activity more than the ageing process that causes this decline.
“As you get older the body’s ability to heal wounds and injuries decreases, but with regular exercise it is possible to speed up the healing process by up to 25 percent. Flexibility training can also decrease the need for hip and knee replacements and combining exercise with healthy eating can reduce tooth loss and risk of heart disease,” Marks says.
The Government’s Healthy Ageing Strategy outlines physical and mental resilience as a key action to improve the health outcomes and independence of older people and ExerciseNZ supports this goal.
“New Zealand’s exercise industry is assisting within the health sector and directly with elderly clients by developing suitable physical activity programmes. We want to ensure elderly people have easy access to professional advice that ultimately improves their long-term quality of life,” Beddie says.
ExerciseNZ recommends the use of registered exercise professionals to be most successful in adopting and maintaining exercise regimes. NZ Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs)
Photo: ExerciseNZ chief executive Richard Beddie.