Exercise as we age – whether it’s a gentle stroll or an intense gym-based workout – is vital in ensuring our long term mental and physical health.
In terms of mental health, exercise can physically improve our brain function! Physical activity increases blood flow and oxygen delivery to the brain, which can enhance neural activity and support neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to change and adapt over time. This is essential for memory and general cognitive function and eliminating inflammation.
Higher levels of physical fitness can lead to increased levels of independence as we get older, allowing you to undertake simple activities like shopping for groceries and lifting bags, mobility around the home and bending down to tie your shoes. It also helps to keep energy levels up, making you more likely to spend time with grandchildren and family members and socialise with friends old and new.
Exercise in an outdoor environment delivers so many additional benefits. There is the social aspect; greeting people as you walk or train, meeting new people in your area and also engaging in friendly conversation as you work out. The exposure to Vitamin D (while being sun-safe) is essential to your bone health and can also improve your immune system function and your mood! One study found that individuals who exercised outdoors had a lower risk of hypertension and other cardiovascular conditions than those who exercised indoors.
Geriatric research has shown that the fear of falling increases the actual risk of doing so. In improving and maintaining your motor skills and balance as you age, the likelihood of falls decreases, while also building confidence and resilience in tackling situation outside your comfort zone. As we age, our bones become weaker and more prone the fractures. Implementing weight-bearing exercises such as walking or strength training through body-weight resistance helps to improve bone density and can reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Creating an outdoor fitness circuit with a range of body-weight resistance, low impact fitness stations encourages people of all ages to get active in a social and inclusive environment!