The Magic of Exercise

Doctors and other health professionals argue that one of the most important things we can do for our health is to get physically active. But millions of us happily ignore the advice and as a result suffer from all types of ill health.

Good advice

The health service recommends we exercise for at least 2.5 hours each week, particularly as we age. It seems however that 40% of older people take part in such activity for less than 30 minutes a week and a considerable number don’t take any form of exercise. Even though the rate of inactivity amongst older people has stayed fairly constant over the years the number of people has increased as we all live longer. As a result, the cost to the health service has escalated to unsustainable levels while the cost to individuals is felt in an increasingly poor quality of life.

Physical activity is defined as something that cause you to get out of breath while still being able to talk. Such exercise should be carried out for a minimum of 150 minutes a week and in bursts of at least 10 minutes. The benefits are seen in better physical health, mental health and greater rates of social engagement. Higher levels of activity also lead to a longer life and reduced levels of blood pressure and coronary heart disease. Exercise reduces the risk of falls too, which lowers the number of visits to hospital and therefore unnecessary pressure on medical staff and services. In a less dramatic way, exercise also makes the daily tasks of life easier, as it strengthens the body’s muscles, tendons and joints.

More activity

Higher levels of activity improve brain function and cognitive skills too, which help prevent a raft of ailments. Exercising as part of a group reduces feelings of isolation, as it encourages us to build a network of support. It provides other benefits too, as it provides regular opportunities to meet new people. In recent years, loneliness is often seen as a barrier to living a healthy lifestyle. Social isolation where TV plays a key part in staving off loneliness is an increasing worry too, as it leads to higher inactivity levels. Mobility too plays a key role in how we feel and perform, as we are less likely to stay active once mobility is reduced. There are of course many reasons why people are inactive and finding the motivation to start something new is not easy. But in each case we have to figure out what works best for us. Otherwise, any gains will be temporary as inactivity takes hold and triggers further health problems.

So, regular exercise is a good way to stay healthy but we all need to find out what works best for us.