It would be fair to say most people feel confused about some aspect of what it now means to lead a ‘healthy lifestyle’.
Physical activity in older adults
What does the research say?
The rise of the number of studies conducted about health and wellbeing, combined with strong, often polarising, industry biases and social media ‘noise’ means most people are aware of the requirement to lead a healthy lifestyle but are not quite sure how to separate fact from fiction.
Given the volume of health information in the marketplace, consensus reports can prove a highly valuable tool in filtering out the key information we should be using to help us navigate our health and wellbeing. Most recently a group of 26 esteemed researchers bedding themselves down in Copenhagen for four days to pull together an evidence-based consensus about physical activity in older adults. The findings of this report were recently shared in the British Journal of Sports Medicine and our key highlights are below. Spoiler alert – physical activity is really, really good for older adults and ageing – but we knew that already 😉
The benefits of exercise for older people
Key points noted within the report:
Physically active older adults, compared with older inactive adults, show benefits in terms of higher physical and cognitive function. Physically active people are more likely to have pain free movement, reduced risk of falls and fractures, less incidence of depression and improved quality of life. Some might say a full house of benefits!
The benefits of activity are clear but so too are the costs of being inactive. Physical inactivity in older adults is linked to an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, strokes and all diseases of ageing. It is well established that being inactive translates into years of ill health when compared to active counterparts. ‘Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.’ Plato
So how much is enough…well the good news is that there was some challenge to the existing guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate activity per week being a minimum dosage. Health benefits can be seen below this volume threshold, but, as to be expected, all key benefits are dose dependent i.e. more activity is better and higher doses gave bigger and more meaningful health benefits
The consensus also focussed on the brain and brain health and found some very clear benefits. The report was clear that physical activity has proven benefits for cognitive functioning and brain health in older adults. Evidence was consistent that age-associated brain decline and neurodegeneration (also observed in e.g., Alzheimer Disease, Parkinson’s disease) may be slowed or delayed in physically active adults. This is great news and incentive enough to increase activity even without all the other benefits
The report also focussed on compliance, as keeping up physical activity is more important than starting it! An interesting finding here is when physical activity is meaningful to them, older adults are more likely to continue participation. This has a particular relevance to the team at Viavi:be who consistently try to show the broad benefits of physical activity and show health metrics improving as activity levels rise. Our Health Coaches specialise in finding the meaning in physical activity and proving an ‘ounce of effort’ will truly generate a ‘pound of return’.