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Not so long ago, in India at least, the over-50 brigade looked forward to a post-retirement life of hanging up their work shoes, indulging in long post-lunch siestas and getting a little exercise from having their grandchildren running all over them. But this is no longer the case. More and more seniors are turning to sports and fitness regimens to keep themselves mentally and physically young, active and in good health.

Exercising can give seniors a new lease on a “longer” life.We are all aware that physical activity and exercise are good for us. In fact, being physically active on a regular basis is one of the healthiest things you can do. Without wishing in any way to be flippant, those who have seen Piku (a Hindi film released  couple of years ago) shows (almost graphically) how the main protagonist, an old gentlemen played by Mr. Amitabh Bachchan, has chronic constipation till he takes a long bike ride after which voila! He has the best bowel movement of his life! And that is one of the most telling examples of the benefits of exercising on a daily basis.

To quote Leena Mogre, Director of a well-known chain of fitness centres in India,  “There is more awareness about fitness now. I’ve seen a rise of about 25% in middle-aged clients who want to run half-marathons.” She also goes on to say that it’s predominantly women who dominate the growth in middle aged and senior clients as they seem to care more about how they look but men are waking up to the benefits of working out as they head into their 60s. So why this surge in participation in endurance events by men over 50 and in their 60s?

Physically active and mentally fit!

Exercise provides many health benefits that senior citizens can gain from. Even moderate exercise, just a gentle walk around the block for 20 minutes a day, can improve the health of people who need to build strong bones and improve daily digestive and respiratory functions or who have diseases that accompany aging.

If you have a dog, both of you can go out for a walk twice a day. Or go for a ramble in a nearby park to “watch the world go by”? Fear of falling while walking can be cured by way of a walking stick and trips to nearby scenic spots, with a helper at hand. Getting a physical therapist is also a good idea. A therapist can help with exercises and make sure that you go for daily walks with a friend or companion.

Being physically active can also help you stay strong and fit enough to keep doing the things you like to do as you get older. You won’t need a great deal of help doing your own house work, or your own cooking or going out to do some shopping. Nor will you need help to have a bath or take things down from shelves and cupboards! Making exercise and physical activity a regular part of your life can improve your health (physical and mental) while helping you maintain your independence as you age.

What the doctors have to say..

Doctors and health care specialists have always maintained that staying physically active and exercising regularly can help prevent or delay many diseases and disabilities. Exercise is most often an effective treatment for a whole host of chronic conditions. Studies show that people with arthritis, heart disease, or diabetes benefit from regular exercise. Exercise also helps people with high blood pressure, balance problems, or who have difficulty walking.

Regular, moderate physical activity will help you manage stress levels better while improving your mood. Endorphins released in your brain by exercise lifts your mood, making you feel more optimistic and happier with life – very important for older people. That’s why being active on a regular basis helps to  reduce feelings of depression. Studies also suggest that exercise can improve or maintain some aspects of cognitive function, such as your ability to shift quickly between tasks, plan an activity, and ignore irrelevant information.

All in all, a daily dose of exercise will help you feel happier and live healthier, longer lives – an enjoyable way of keeping the tribulations of encroaching old age at bay!

BY By Thiyagarajan Velayutham, Founder, IHHC| July 28th, 2017

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