Especially for older adults, medical advice states that it’s never too late to start with exercise and some physical activity is better than none
Doha, 9 February 2022: Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) physicians advocate the benefits of regular physical activity to support both physical as well as mental health and wellbeing. The benefits of staying physically active and eating a nutritional and balanced diet include reducing the risk of disease and improving existing conditions, especially chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis.
Dr. Hanadi Al-Hamad, National Lead for Healthy Ageing, Chairperson of the Department of Geriatrics and Long-Term Care at HMC said that a sedentary lifestyle, which includes extended hours of sitting time, is associated with greater risk of chronic disease: “Qatar’s National Sports Day is a wonderful opportunity to remind ourselves about our health, fitness and wellbeing and what we can do to improve these through keeping physically active. Some physical activity is better than none and even light activity can provide health benefits compared to being sedentary for too long. Older adults, especially those who are more house bound, should break up prolonged periods of being inactive with light activity if they are physically able to do so; even the simple act of standing up and moving within the house is better than just sitting or lying down all the time. Older people who are being cared for by family members and carers should be encouraged and helped to do some activity to promote their fitness and health.”
Evidence shows how physical activity can provide protection against a wide range of chronic conditions including heart disease, obesity and diabetes, which in turn also increase the risk of stroke and dementia. Engaging in regular exercise programs with family members and friends will improve both physical and brain health, reducing the risk of dementia and depression in older adults. Older adults should improve their physical function by undertaking activities aimed at improving or maintaining muscle strength, balance and flexibility, at least two days a week. These could be combined with sessions involving moderate aerobic activity or could be additional sessions aimed specifically at these components of fitness.
Dr. Essa Al Sulaiti, Medical Director of Home Health Care Services , explained that all adults should engage in heart and muscle strengthening activities to help them as they age. “Regular physical activity can help adults maintain strength and delay the natural decline in muscle mass and bone density which usually starts to occur in people after the age of 50. Balance and flexibility promoting activities are especially important for older adults to reduce the risk of falls and managing stiffness in joints, which can be painful.”
International evidence-based guidelines offer recommended frequency, intensity, duration and types of physical activity suitable for different age groups. For instance, adults, including older adults, should aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity each week and do some muscle strengthening activities at least twice a week. Older adults should start by taking up moderate intensity aerobic activity designed to increase their breathing rate and heartbeat a little from baseline, as tolerated. As they gain fitness levels, they can build up gradually to include more vigorous intensity activity to build stamina and endurance. All experts agree that the benefits of an active lifestyle accumulate over time and that it is never too late to gain health benefits from taking up physical activity.
“A more physically active and fit population means healthier individuals and communities. Regular physical activity will not only improve your current fitness, but also lead to long term health benefits, eventually leading to a healthier and fit older age,” added Dr. Al Hamad.