The key to maintaining health and independence is staying physically active.
- Being able to move is a big part of living life, be it from the bed to the bathroom or from the home to the grocery store.
- Activity improves physical health, keeps the mind sharp and helps with enjoyment of life.
- Anyone can include physical activity in his or her daily routine, regardless of age or health issues.
There are many physical activities to choose from. It is never too late to start!
- You should keep in mind the importance of choosing activities that help the body to move.
- One of the easiest and best physical activities is walking. Walking is open to nearly everyone. Did you know that only 4% of us need help to walk outside our homes or cannot walk at all?
What you Should Know
There are many benefits to helping your family member be physically active. With physical activity your family member will
- Feel better and be more positive about life
- Have better memory and mental alertness
- Reduce their risk of falls
- Be helped to stay at a healthy weight
- Reduce the risk of serious diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes
- Have a better sleep and be more relaxed
- Feel less stressed and depressed
- Build healthy muscles and bones
- Have more confidence with mobility
- Have more interest in being with other people
How to Get Started
- For best results, physical activities should help to improve overall endurance, strength, balance and ability to move freely.
- The easiest way to encourage your family member to become more active is to build physical activity into their daily routine.
- Simply, to do what they are doing, only more often.
- Be creative. Find ways to do things they enjoy doing that involves being more active.
- Get other people involved such as friends, grandchildren or other family members.
- Start slowly and always work within their comfort zone.
- Aim for a total of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week.
Ways of Increasing Physical Activity
Going for a walk with your family member is one of the easiest ways to realize all the benefits of physical activity.
- Walking is gentle so injures are less likely
- It can be done almost anywhere at any time
- Walking can start off slowly and build up gradually as confidence increases.
And walking is not just for people who can walk on their own. It can be done with walking aids like canes or a walker or even by wheeling a wheelchair.
There are many physical activities that can be done as part of everyday living
- Strengthening and stretching exercises can be done sitting on a chair.
- Doing simple chores like carrying laundry and groceries keep muscles and bones strong, improves balance and helps prevent falls.
- Gardening and household chores that require bending and reaching help to keep muscles and joints moving easily.
- Stationary bikes are a good alternative to cycling outdoors.
There are a number of community programs for older adults.
- Look into programs offered by the local community league, seniors' centres, or YMCA/YWCA.
- Investigate programs specially designed for older adults, such as yoga or tai chi.
- Consider groups such as bird watching, bowling or dancing.
- Be a part of groups with similar needs - for example, arthritis or balance groups.
- Know your family member's health limitations. Choose activities that they can do safely.
- Walk on level surfaces that are free of sand and gravel.
- Recognize the challenges of winter snow and ice on physical activity. Icy walkways can increase the risk of falls.
- Going to a shopping mall is a good option as malls often have indoor walking programs before the stores open.
- Some fitness centres also have tracks designed for people to walk on.
- Walking can also be done inside the home or by making use of apartment hallways. Make sure there is good lighting and no loose rugs or obstacles that could result in a fall.
- Even people with physical problems or long-term illnesses can benefit from physical activity. Talk to your family member's health care provider or physical therapist. They can provide ideas on where to start and what special things they need to do.
Alberta Health Services
Edmonton Seniors Coordinating Council
Public Health Agency of Canada
- Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Living for Older Adults explains why physical activity is important, and provides tips for increased physical activity and addresses many concerns that prevent older adults from becoming more active.
Active Living Coalition for Older Adults
- The Coalition strives to promote a society where all older Canadians are leading active lifestyles that contribute to their overall well-being.
American Geriatric Society
- This website addresses the "right" amount of exercise and the health benefits of physical activity and different types of exercise.
National Institutes of Health – Senior Health
- Exercise for Older Adults, Benefits of Exercise includes topics with short informational videos. Exercise Stories, for which a link is provided, are written by people aged between 60 and 91.
Growing Stronger – Strength Training for Older Adults
- This Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources website provides information on improving strength to help with being involved in physical activities.
Macmillan Cancer Support & UK NHS
Walking for Health, UK National Health Service
World Health Organization