These days doctors often ‘prescribe’ exercise as a way to maintain good health and with good reason. Being active not only makes us feel better, it can also help ease various symptoms and cut risk of disease.
Studies have shown that people in their late 70s who undertake at least 20 minutes of exercise per day need fewer prescriptions and are less likely to be admitted to hospital than those who don’t . Exercise has been shown to be as effective at lowering blood pressure as certain medication, as well as being shown to improve heart and gut health, memory and balance. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends exercise 3 times per week between 45min to an hour, for 3 months for those with mild or moderate depression. The physical activity also stimulates our brains and helps prevent anxiety and stress, as well as increasing the lifespan and improving the quality of life.
- For Living Longer – Jogging
A US study showed that adults over 65 who ran or jogged for at least 30 minutes 3 times per week were as healthy as young adults in their 20s . This might not sound important, but your walking style is a key indicator of mortality, so the longer you can stay spritely on your feet, the longer and healthier your life should be. Meanwhile, another study found that light jogging (between 70-120 minutes per week) was linked to the lowest mortality rate compared to sedentary people and heavy runners – so little and often is key here .
- For Improving Memory – Dancing
A study from 2017 found that all exercise can help reverse the signs of ageing in the brain, but dancing more than any other sport . The study, which focused on adults in their late 60s who took part in a weekly dance class, found that all participants showed an increase in the hippocampus region of the brain, which can be affected by diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, as well as more general age-related decline.
- For Back Pain – Active Therapies
Many GP appointments are connected to muscle and nerve problems- and these are often based in the back. If you suffer with back pain, you will know that it can affect your movement and sleep and leave you feeling quite low. Luckily, help is at hand in the form of gentle stretching. Also, research shows that active therapies, such as chiropractic treatment, are a great option for managing back pain and to create optimal alignment, balance and symmetry.
- For Depression and Anxiety – Walking
Science agrees – walking outdoors (especially in groups) has been linked to a reduction in stress and a boost in mood, particularly for those who have just been through a negative life event such as serious illness or loss of a loved one. Brisk walks have also been shown to help women deal with the anxiety and stress that’s sometimes associated with menopause. Movement helps your brain to release endorphins, feel-good hormones that can reduce the perception of pain as well as depression or stress.
- For Bone and Muscle Health – Weight Training
Experts are increasingly suggesting a bit of strength training goes a long way when it comes to better bone and muscle health. As we get older, we start to lose muscle mass, which can leave us prone to falls, as well as making it easier to gain weight. So think of strength training as insurance for your later life. While this could mean leading to lift lightweights at the gym, it can also mean strength exercises using your own body weight – such as sit-ups or squats. It’s really never too late to start. A study of 90-year-olds found that 12 weeks of strength training improved their muscle tone, ability to balance, general power and walking speed.
Don’t forget 150 minutes (just over 21 mins daily) is the minimum moderate exercise the NHS recommends for adults to stay healthy! And the best part is, it’s freely available to most of us, small things make a big difference. Movement is the new medicine!