We all know that exercise is good for our health but some of us tend to be somewhat lax when it comes to taking exercise. Our lives have become more sedentary – between spending time on the computer, watching TV, taking lifts instead of the stairs and driving to work instead of walking or cycling. Unfortunately, not only does inactivity compromise our health when we are young and middle-aged but it definitely affects our physical and mental health when we are older.
According to this research by Dr Elaine Murtagh, only 22% of older people in Northern Ireland and 37% in the Republic of Ireland meet the recommended weekly minimum of 150 minutes of activitiy, which is 20 minutes per day. She found that women are over twice as likely to be inactive as men. She also discovered that the older we get, the less likely we are to exercise, perhaps due to an increased fear of falling or having already fallen once, are nervous of it happening again. While nervousness can be understandable, this underlines the importance of having an exercise partner, be it a friend or a home carer, to link arms when going out for a walk. Having an exercise buddy too means it is less easy to put it off, to think of an excuse and yes, we know that once we are home after a brisk walk on an autumnal or winter’s day, that a hot chocolate tastes all the nicer!
Murtagh also discovered that those who are isolated tend to exercise less too, those who live alone and don’t make the effort to mix almost get out of the habit of going to see others and getting out to see the world. Those who look after grandchildren (and probably have to maintain their fitness as a result) and those who have a car are more likely to be outgoing and enjoy taking exercise. Those who keep themselves busy by attending courses, networks and groups tend to exercise more too. The research doesn’t demonstrate if the majority of people tend to exercise alone or with others but judging by the other findings, it strikes me that if we are in the habit of getting out of the house, be it for exercise or to drive to town or attend a course, that it is a good habit to be in. Apparently, it takes 21 days to create a habit, to change a behaviour, to move from no or little exercise to a daily walk. The walks don’t have to be long, they don’t have to be 30 or 40 minutes in length, even ten minutes exercise twice a day is hugely beneficial.
According to Professor Ken Fox of University of Bristol, we often view walking as a means to get from A to B, that it must have a purpose, that it must be because we are walking to the shops or the library. However, walking or any other form of exercise should be seen as a source of pleasure or leisure. It’s not necessarily about getting fit or burning calories, it’s about getting out in the fresh air and enjoying the environment.
If you feel you should be exercising more, why not ask a family member or a home carer to accompany you on a short walk each day. If you are a family or home carer, why not suggest that to the caree? Wrapping up against the autumn chill yet enjoying the autumnal sunshine can be so invigorating and refreshing.