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Gymnastics and seniors: all the benefits of physical activity for the over 65s

Physical activity is essential at every stage of life, but it is often neglected in old age. Early aches and pains make people stop exercising to reduce the chance of injury, but movement is the only weapon against the unpleasant symptoms that appear in over-65s. Many studies have shown that physical activity is not only an excellent instrument to slow down the aging process and increase expectancy and quality of life, but it’s also a good mood enhancer, promoting psychological well-being. During the long periods spent at home due to the pandemic emergency, the spotlights has been turned on the risks to mental and physical health, especially for the elderly. In order to avoid the problems related to a sedentary lifestyle, as mentioned by the Istituto Superiore di Sanità on its institutional website, now more than ever it’s important to stay active at home.

Gymnastics for seniors: what and when?

Also the WHO is supporting the programmes to promote physical activity and combat sedentary habits, in fact the Organization issued a vademecum on 25 November 2020. “Being physically active is essential for heart, mind and body, at any age and with any ability” said Fiona Bull, head of the Physical Activity Unit, which led the revision work of the “2020 guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behavior”.
According to experts and professionals who contributed to the creation of this document, adults and elderly should engage in between 150 and 300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week or between 75 and 150 minutes of vigorous intensity.

And while the WHO in its health promotion strategy states that “every move counts”, it recommends muscle strengthening exercises at least two days a week and multi-component physical activity (a combination of aerobic exercise, muscle strengthening and balance training) three days a week. This is also confirmed by the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, in which is shown that people over-65s need to engage in two types of physical activity during the week in order to achieve substantial health benefits, one aerobic and one about muscle strengthening.

Aerobics and muscle strengthening

By performing simple aerobic exercises, from stretching to stepping on a Balance Dome, even the seniors will feel pulse and breathe much stronger than normal. Jumping rope with Jump Rope helps to breathe properly and focus on balance. Walking and running are the world’s most popular aerobic activities: on one hand they burn calories and help you lose weight, on the other free your mind by releasing endorphins. Alternating the use of professional treadmills with bikes that are ideal for back pain sufferers can therefore improve your mood.

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Equally important is muscle strengthening of the legs, gluteus, arms, abdominals and pectorals. Valid allies for exercises are Power Bands which, in addiction to facilitating stretching, can help with resistance exercises, perhaps combined with weights. For the latter there is a wide range of equipment, from Kettlebells and Dumbbells to simple weights to use in bodyweight exercises or on the bench. Moreover, gentle gymnastics, which can be performed with the help of a mat, reduces the pain and the muscle stiffness typical of advancing age.

How physical activity helps the elderly

Strong scientific evidence shows that regular physical activity decreases the risk of falls in the elderly, who improve their balance thanks to the exercises. Moreover, according to the WHO, seniors who practice a continuous physical activity improve their cardiovascular and muscular health, and see the risk of chronic and depressive diseases reduced.

A study by American College of Sports Medicine on the elderly and sport has highlighted the health benefits of physical activity: according to the researchers, an hour and a half of aerobic exercise per week is enough to prevent 40 chronic diseases. According to the article “The benefits of strength training in the elderly” published in Science, exercises involving weights or machines have also the ability to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, improve sleep and alleviate depressive symptoms. People who exercise in old age therefore enjoy better health and mood benefits. In fact, fitness contrasts anxiety and helps maintain mental balance by releasing endorphins and increasing self-confidence.

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