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Fitness for Older Adults: part one

Okay, who is the "Older Adult"?

The Office for National Statistics states that our healthy life expectancy is 63.1 for men and 63.7 for women, however the average lifespan in the UK is 79 years for men and almost 83 years for women. This suggests that the gap between healthy lifespan and actual lifespan is quite broad, leaving us with a potentially large proportion of our life in a state of deteriorating health.

Look up your local high street and you'll see a varied picture of ages and health profiles which demonstrate the importance of disregarding figures in place of people.Throwing numbers around is a poor way to define the "Older Adult" and maybe a term like "ability" is better than "age".

Consider also the huge gap between the ages of 30 and 50; why is it that many people rarely consider this to be as great a chasm when it's between the ages of 60 and 80? The current 50 year old grew up on The Cure, REM and Nirvana; for 30 year olds, it's Coldplay and Beyonce. A 60 year old today grew up with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones but the teenage music for an 80 year old is ground breaking mix of Nat King Cole and Vera Lynn (now there's a mash up we'd like to hear!).

So let's ignore figures and consider ability, independence and joie de vivre. Who has, it, why do you need it and how do you get it?

There are many barriers to exercise, especially as people age. One of these barriers includes self perception. Older people often perceive themselves as being more active than they are. In fact, research has suggested that over 50% of older adults in the sedentary category thought they exercised enough to be fit. Compound this with the fact that ‘Physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality (accounting for 6% of deaths globally)’ NCBI and we start to see why there's a gap between healthy living years and actual living years.

The WHO (World Health Organisation) Defines Physical Activity in 2014: ‘as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure’ i.e. gardening and further goes on to define exercise as: ‘a subcategory of physical activity that is planned, structured, repetitive, and purposeful in the sense that the improvement or maintenance of one or more components of physical fitness is the objective’ i.e. gym based exercise.

Here's a great summation of the level of exercise the older adults should be seeking. (You'll just have to read it on a tablet so you can make the text bigger!)

Over the next few weeks, we'll look closer at the effects of ageing on our bodies with a view to preparing for the future and retrieving lost fitness. Next week we'll look at the skeletal system, how we can protect ourselves from early years and what to do if you're already experiencing the effects of the skeletal ageing process.

Share the music of your formative years in the Making Change Stick Facebook group!

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