Loss of muscle mass and decline in brain function are parts of the aging process which can lead to increase physical inactivity, reduce mobility and increase dependency for elderly. In order to maintain physical and mental health, we need to exercise our body parts and our brain regularly.
How to do it?
Physical activity that recommended by WHO for adults > 65 years old:
- At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity
- Aerobic activity should be performed in bouts of at least 10 minutes each time
- For additional health benefits, older adults can increase their moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes per week, or engage in 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, or an equivalent combination of moderate-and vigorous-intensity activity.
- Muscle-strengthening activities, involving major muscle groups, should be done on 2 or more days a week.
- When older adults cannot do the recommended amounts of physical activity due to health conditions, they should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow.
- Older adults, with poor mobility, should perform physical activity to enhance balance and prevent falls on 3 or more days per week.
What is moderate intensity aerobic physical activity?
Moderate intensity aerobic physical activity will raise our heart rate, make us breathe faster and feel warmer. We still can talk during the exercise but cant sing a song.
Ballroom and line dancing
Cycling at level ground
Playing double tennis
What is vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity?
Vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity will increase our heart beat and breathing more, and we cant speak more than few words during exercise.
Running or jogging
Cycling fast or on hills
Playing single tennis
What is muscle strengthening activity?
Muscle strengthening activity is counted in sets and repetitions. For each activity, try to do it in 10-15 repetitions, and try to complete at least 2-3 sets to gain health benefits from it.
Some suggestions of simple muscle strengthening exercise that’s can be done at home for elderly: (pictures to follow)
Upper Limbs :
- Wrist curl
- Arm curl
- Side arms raise
- Elbow extension
Lower Limbs :
- Back leg raise
- Knee curl
- Leg straightening exercise
- Toe stand
What are the benefits of exercise in older adults?
- Lower rates of all cause mortality
- Lower rates of chronic illness eg. Coronary Heart Disease, High Blood Pressure, Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, Stroke, Colon cancer and Breast cancer.
- Better cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, healthier body mass and composition
- Higher level of functional status, lower risk of fall and better cognitive function.
Brain Stimulating Activity
Brain is like our muscles, it needs mental exercise to keep it active, and to slow down degeneration process.
However we do not have a recommended schedule of brain exercise like the physical exercise mentioned above. There are wide range of brain stimulating activities that can be done depends on the elderly’s education level and social cultural background. Something which the elderly find it meaningful and enjoyable is the key principle in choosing brain stimulating activity.
Some examples and suggestions for brain stimulating activity:
- Self care - from bathing, dressing, grooming, all these activities need brain function to perform it. Do not take over the task from the elderly as long as they can do it themselves.
- Skillful activity – driving, cooking, sewing etc.
Hobby and Crafts
- Drawing / painting
- Playing musical instruments
Games and Puzzles
- Card games
- Jig saw puzzle
- Engaging in a meaningful conversation has been suggested as the most important brain stimulating activity for elderly. Asking for their opinions or advices, let them give suggestions and let them make decision, all these information can stimulate their brain to think and increase their sense of self worth.
- Outing – traveling, shopping, dining out, etc.
- Social events – wedding, funeral, birthday celebration, family or friends gathering, religion activities, volunteer activity in NGO, etc.
Learning New Things
- Learn new language
- Learn new musical instrument
- Learn new hobby
- Learn new cooking recipe / cooking method
- Learn how to operate new gadgets, eg. new TV with remote control, new oven, new smart phone, computer
All the activities mentioned above are just suggestion for a healthy elderly, if the elderly is having some medical illness, kindly consult the doctor before doing it.
DR. TEH HOON LANG is a Geriatrician based at Hospital Sultanah Bahiyah, Alor Setar.