Age doesn’t define how we choose to live life, if only the same was true of our health.
Staying active as you get older is important for our wellbeing as well as our mental and physical health.
According to physical activity guidelines, it is recommended that adults aged 65 years and over complete at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day.
But data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows as a nation we are a long way off achieving this. In fact, in 2020-21, only around four in ten (41.8 percent) people aged 65 years or over met the physical activity guidelines.
Half (49.9 percent) undertook at least 30 minutes of physical activity on five or more days and a similar rate (51.2 percent) engaged in daily physical activity.
And this is a huge concern.
A 2018 report that investigated The Importance of Physical Activity Exercise among Older People found that inactivity is associated with alterations in body composition.
This, in turn, results in an increase in the percentage of body fat and an associated decline in lean body mass, the report’s authors discovered.
“Significant loss in maximal force production takes place with inactivity. Skeletal muscle atrophy is often considered a hallmark of aging and physical inactivity. Sarcopenia is defined as low muscle mass in combination with low muscle strength and/or low physical performance. Consequently, low physical performance and dependence on activities of daily living are more common among older people.
“However, strength training has been shown to increase lean body mass, improve physical performance, and to a lesser extent have a positive effect on self-reported activities of daily living.”
Government healthy ageing initiative LiveUp, which is funded by the Department of Health, says just a slight increase in activity each day can improve your health and wellbeing.
It can help reduce the risk of health issues such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and bone and joint problems, reduce the risk of falls and injury and give you more energy. It can even improve your sleep patterns, the group says.
LiveUp says moderate intensity activities that are good for your heart, lungs and blood vessels include brisk walking, swimming, golf with no cart, water aerobics, gardening and tennis - even mopping and vacuuming!
Strength activities, which help maintain muscle and bone strength, include exercises such as weight, strength or resistance training, lifting and carrying (for example, groceries or small children), climbing stairs, moderate yard work (for example, digging and shifting soil) and callisthenics (for example, push-ups and sit-ups).
Flexibility activities are things that help you move more easily. These include exercises such as tai chi, bowls (indoor and outdoor), mopping or vacuuming, stretching exercises, yoga and dancing.
Balance activities can improve your stability to help prevent falls and injuries, these exercises can include side leg raises, half squats and heel raises.
With this much variety on offer, we really have no excuse not to build more activity into our day.