Ageing and Exercise

  |    May 4th, 2020   |   0

Ageing and Exercise

Dr. Suresh Kumar Lau

“Last scene of all,

That ends this strange eventful history,

Is second childishness and mere oblivion?

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything”

(From As You Like It, Act 2, scene 7, 1600 – William Shakespeare)

These views expressed by the English dramatist, universally recognized as the greatest English writer William Shakespeare in his play “As You Like It” aptly describe the plight of an aged person an Urdu couplet the cycle of human life in its own way:

Duni ajab Sarai fani dekhi

Har cheez yahan ki ani jani dekhi

jo aake na jaye wo budhapa dekha

jo ja ken a aayi wo jawani dekhi

All of us have to go through the cycle of life and the poet says, “The glamorous youth has come and gone never to return and old age has come never to leave till we breathe own last”. Ageing is an inevitable part of the cycle of life. Ageing is the process of growing old chronologically. It is a normal process of life that effect to everybody. A person is called old on the basis of his chronological age. Actually it is the functional state of a living organism, that is, the biological age that determines the ageing of a person, and the ageing phenomenon has always been a part of mankind, although not influencing him as much as it does today.

Growth of Aged Population

The increase in life-expectancy at birth is a global phenomenon, has led to a rise in the proportion of older age group in the entire population all over the world. In the last five decades, with exception of some pockets of South America and Africa, longevity of human life has gone up. In Japan and the Scandinavian countries it is nearly 80 years. The increase in the elderly population will be most marked in Asia, particularly China and India. The life span has increased in India from 32 years in 1947 to more than 62 years now. The longest documented survival of human being an Indian Man, Aolepolen from Naganand who lived 125 years.

India is graying and graying fast. In India there are 70 million people above 70 years (6% of the population) likely to touch a hefty 12 percent by the year 2025 when the number will burgeon to about 150 millions.

All parts of the society are influenced by the ageing process. According to a UN survey, there will be more than a billion people aged over 60 by the year 2025, and for the first time in history, they will outnumber the young in many countries.

When a person is called old?

          Ageing is the process of growing old chronologically. It is a normal process of life that occurs in everybody. Ageing cannot be viewed as a simple chronological event. Some people are biologically old at 30; others possess the vitality and endurance of a 40 year old at 70. The biological functioning of an individual declines at different rates within and among people. The definition of elderly persons as individuals beyond 58, 60 or 65 years of age giver by certain national or international agencies is only a working definition. The World Health Organization classified ageing in four stages; Middle age as 45 to 59, elderly as 60 to 74, old as 75 to 90 and very old as over 90.

Physiological, psychological, social, economic and to some extent cultural, spiritual and educational factors determine the expression, attitude and behavior of person and thus influence the quality of ageing.

India’s first National Policy on old Person was introduced in 1999 Articles 41 and 47 of Indian constitution for public assistance to the elderly and improvement of Public health is among the State’s primary duties.

The loneliness causes major strain on mental health and can lead to disease dementia and Alzheimer’s. No doubt, society or family should be ensuring that the elderly don’t get cut off from active social life.

Day to day work cause, the ageing population finds it more difficult, especially those who live alone. There should be a support system in place to take care of their needs such as delivery of daily essentials such as regular medical checkups, delivery of daily essential and other allied services.

The year of old persons.

The last year of millennium was dedicated by the United Nations to old persons. In 1992, the decision “to observe the year 1999 as the International Year of Older persons” was taken. Eighteen principles enunciated by the United Nations fall into five clusters namely independence, participation, Care, Self-fulfillment and Dignity. Within the framework of the general objective declared by the United Nations for old person, specific objectives to be achieved by India were listed as follows: (i) Expanded old age pension scheme to include the private sector. (ii) subsidized health care network with private sector involvement (iii) increased standard tax deductions for senior citizens, (iv) Legalization on parents right to be supported by children, (v) regulatory authority to monitor pension funds 9vi) Easy access to housing loans and (vii) special provisions in Indian Penal Code for the protection of older people.

Ageing Process

With ageing, various functions of a living body deteriorate. There is a Roman Concept that “old age is a disease itself”. It is still believed that the greatest misfortune that can befall anyone is the combination of old age, disease and poverty. Every society has its own ways of dealing with its ageing and elderly members. To say that this is a reflection of the society’s mores, ethos, religion and also the economic and political conditions may sound like truism.

Ageing becomes gradually susceptible to disease due to a decline in the reserve capacity of various functions of the living body decline of adaptability to change in external and internal environment and decreasing resistance to invasion in living body.

The fundamental organic phenomena which occur in a living body during ageing are a decrease in number of cells, changes inside cells and changes in connective tissues. Women over 35 years lose bone mineral at approximately one percent per year. The process can be reversed with physical activity and calcium and vitamin D supplements.

A positive attitude and good health are the pre-requisites of ageing with grace. Of these, maintaining one’s health is the basis of geriatric medicine. The word “Geriatrias” is derived from the Greek word “Gerous” meaning old age and “iatros” meaning medicine. It was coined by an American doctor Nascher, in 1914. The British Geriatric society defines. “Geriatric” as “that branch of general medicine concerned with the clinical, preventive, medical and social aspects of illness in elderly”. Old age should be anticipated and prophylactic geriatric care must be practiced right from the middle years. Many old age diseases are either preventable or treatable. The essence of preventing is to reduce the risk of illness and to avoid delaying death.

Physical activity and well-being in older people

Hippocrates is known as the Father of Medicine observes that eating alone should not keep one well, a person must also take exercise. In one of the first printed books on exercise, Mendez sees exercise as a biased medicine for the body and for the mind.

Since the time of the ancient Greeks, Romans and Celts the health benefits of an active lifestyle have been promoted with great enthusiasm.

The human body is designed to undertake a certain amount of daily physical activity. It has an intricate system of muscles and joints that are made for movement. Automation and technology have freed many from the exhausting physical labor required of earlier generations. The fatiguing physical labor of the farmer and manual labor is not part of the normal daily activity pattern of a majority of individuals. But we have modernized our lives to an extent where we do not undertake the required amount of physical exercise. If you feel fatigued by the end of the day, wake to early morning lethargy, feel those nagging ache and paints, or experience marital depression and stress. You are a victim of modern-day living. You will be confronted by early ageing and an illness-prone old age. Yet, there is a simple solution – regular exercise

Death in middle age is frequently caused by chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease and cancer. It is now well established that many of these conditions were related to adverse lifestyle habits which have been identified by medical research. With present knowledge of these adverse habits, prevention becomes a feasible prospect. The important adverse risk factors in Western society are smoking, alcohol abuse, unhealthy eating habits and a sedentary living. Physical activity clearly has benefits is for the health and well-being of men and women of all ages, and activity may well be particularly beneficial for older individuals. Older individuals typically experience decline in physical functioning and increasing incidence of chronic health problems such as cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. Although some declines with age are inevitable, appreciable evidence indicates that physically active older individuals maintain healthy functioning longer than their sedentary peers do. For instance, in a summarizing research on activity and health among elderly, Nieman concluded that the elderly active people experience less loss of cardio respiratory function with age; the elderly respond to training and improve cardio respiratory function; and regular physical activity reduces susceptibility to osteoporosis fractures and many chronic diseases.

Research indicates that numerous biological changes take place due to bed rest and insufficient exercise such as: a change in the fat/lean body mass ratio in favor of fat; a drop in oxygen consumption and cardiac output; a diminished sense of balance; a loss of body water and a lessened ability to control the body’s internal temperature; fewer red blood cell and an increased tendency to blood clots; a rise in total blood lipids, calcium loss from bones and substantial insensately to glucose (Evans et al, 1991).

Activity and Longevity

Unlike machines, the body gets better the more we use it. Not only does regular exercise help to delay the ageing process but there is enough evidence that it can have a rejuvenating affect on the body. Older people, who have been put on regulated physical activity programs, have shown remarkable improvement in health and appearance. Muscles, bones, tendons, arteries get stronger with use. In fact disuse is deadly. Many of our degenerative diseases are caused by disuse. Research shows that people can reverse or at the very least retard many of the biological changes that are associated with ageing. Exercise is the key to health and rewarding old age.

Ageing and Motor Skills

The variability in motor skill performance among older persons is astonishing. Certain individuals over 55 have attained remarkable achievements in swimming, diving, track and field, skating and other athletic competitions. Some notable records show that men in their sixties throw a discus over 100 feet; 85 year old Carol Johnson who had at that age cleared 7 feet, 6 inches in pole vault, a record, 55 year old sprinters crack the 20 second mark for 200 meters, and women set records in swimming, running, and field events.

On the other hand, many older persons with one or more chronic conditions so not possess motor skills and adequate locomotion for activities and tasks for daily living. The level of motor skill accomplishment is personal and can reach superlative caliber depending upon the fitness status and motivation of the individual. Elite motor performance requires top physical fitness prerequisites, medical approval and supervision. This level of activity is applicable for only those older persons who properly conditioned for such events. The ensuing consideration pertains basically to the massive majority of nonathletic older person beyond the age of 50 years seeking motor skill and physical fitness which will maximize the quality of their personal everyday tasks. As life expectance increases, it becomes more important or all old person to maintain their health and independence as long as possible.

Exercise for the Aged

In the late sixties, seventies or eighties, the rate of decrease in various physical functions with ageing accelerates. As the reserve capacity of older people decreases greatly and their adaptability also declines, they must take good care to exercise more carefully than middle-aged people in the forties of fifties.

Obviously physical activities are very important for the people during old age. However, it is not correct that only physical activities preserve their health. To keep good health, it is extremely important to observe disciplined habits, take a balanced diet and ensure physical activity and adequate rest. Exercise from the point of view of the physical fitness is absolutely essential for the old age people.

Now-a-day in our daily life, labour is saved by machinery and we do not have to work by using our own muscular power and moreover urbanization takes people away from opportunities of physical activities. Consequently, there appear various health problems in both physical and mental levels.

The Senior Citizens personal fitness goals are likely to include the maintenance of endurance, improvement of appearance, good sleep and above all feeling better.

Research continues to support the positive health merits of regular and systematic activity at old age physique, stature, bone strength, spinal stability, equilibrium, muscular tone, and mobility are enhanced when an individual engages in appropriate, well directed and supervised physical activity and sports.

Several studies have examined older athletes and found marked physiological differences in these individuals when they are compared to age-match, non-trained individuals. These findings again suggest that the decline in physical capacity with age can be minimized by continued physical exercise. From these observations or one assumes that physical activity is significant for the old age to provide improved physical capacity and improved function of tissue and organ system. However, exercise for the elderly should not be provided in cases of acute or chronic illness.

It is beneficial for them to improve their cardio respiratory function with exercises which train the whole body and improve endurance such as walking, jogging, yoga, swimming, cycling and other light sports, which use large muscle group. Exercise retards the physiological changes that result from ageing. Regular exercise of joints avoids stiffness and atrophy of the muscles.

Progressive resistance training results in muscle hypertrophy and increases strength in the elderly Advancing age is associated with sarcopenia defined as the age-related loss in skeletal muscle mass. Sarcopenia is also closely linked to age-related decreases in bone and mineral content and basal metabolic rate and increases in body fat. Physical exercise training, especially resistance training can prevent or delay or minimize the degree of sarcopenia.

This training increases, the ability to carry out the activities of daily living and exerts a beneficial effect on such age-associated diseases as non-insulin-dependent diabetes, coronary artery disease, hypertension, osteoporosis and obesity.

Adding life to Years

Regular physical activity helps to prevent the undesirable mood changes and social isolation which are unfortunately still frequent problems among our senior citizens. Apart from remaining physically independent of others, the risk of falling and of suffering injuries, including broken bones are greatly reduced. It is accidents of this nature which are so often the precursors of chronic invalidism in the elderly. There are health psychological and social advantages in being active which will reduce the risk of chronic physical disability.

Coordination will be better maintained and light work and task around the house can be continued. Outdoor exercise will maintain contact with other people and will reduce the adverse effects of reclusiveness which is common among elderly and particularly the lone elderly. A sense of insecurity, depression, chronic illness, anxiety and resentment with the life are less common in those elderly who are socially integrated and who keep in touch with the outside world.

Regular physical activity/exercise ensures that chronic illness is less prone to occur in the elderly. Arthritis due to disuse and back trouble will be less of a problem in the active elderly. In fact, “use it or lose it” in order to maintain physical and emotional stability.

Thus, the adage “adds life to your years instead of years to your life”. Pronounced by Alexis Carrel, the Nobel Prize winner of Medicine in 1912 can now be stated “Walking for fun and lengthen your life, the two go hand in hand” Thus; regular physical activity can improve the total well-being and can help older persons to remain in control of their lives.

Ageing and Fitness

The ability to perform everyday physical activities is important for the quality of life of older people. Performing daily physical activities requires a certain level of physical fitness. The term “Physical fitness” connotes a state of optimal physical well-being. However, a universally accepted definition of physical fitness is difficult to find. Cure ton, a pioneer in the fitness movement, defined it as “the ability to handle the body well and the capacity to work hard over a long period of time without diminished efficiency”. Physical fitness; defined by the WHO as “the ability to perform muscular work satisfactorily”, includes components such as cardiovascular, endurance, muscular strength, flexibility, balance, manual dexterity, speed and reaction time. Slow, stable and safe are important features of physical exercise for aged people.

Fitness program for the aged have multifaceted purposes: effective improvement of cardiovascular functions, development of muscular strength and stamina: improved joint flexibility, diminished stress, anxiety and tension, slowing the ageing process, coordination and learning of new skills, the risk of stroke may also be decreased, maintenance of good health, situation for social growth and self-image and self-esteem are enhanced. Total wellness, too is vital for the older persons. Regular physical activity can improve the total well being and when used in conjunction with proper nutrition, rest, relaxation and regular medical check-ups can help older persons to remain in control of their own lives. Fortunately, many older persons realize that even though they may have been relatively inactive in their younger years, it is never too late to start. Fitness experts agree on one thing that it is never too late to start out, always remember to build up the pace slowly, especially if you have lived a sedentary life until now. Endurance, flexibility and agility may not be on your side and that gives you even more reason for a slow start. For the elderly who wish to exercise, physical capacity must be determined. The reduced work capacity of older individuals requires lower level exercise programs. The old age individuals may tire more quickly from physical exertion and so exercise programs are designed to permit appropriate rest periods and not demand prolonged continuous exercise, which will lead to severe exhaustion.

To Ideal Exercise

Walking is a natural exercise and so easy so do as well. It is undoubtedly the best form of activity. It is the easiest and most satisfactory way of throwing off lethargy and discovering a new form of exercise. Readily variable it can be tailored to the individual and the environment in which he lives. Walking is a vital defense against the ravages of degenerative swimming, running and bicycling, is an aerobic exercise, which builds the capacity for energy output and physical endurance by increasing the supply of oxygen to the muscles and skin. Such exercise may be primary factor in prevention of heart and circulatory disease. Walking is the most acceptable exercise for the greatest number of people. There is evidence that walking may actually open up narrowed areas in the coronary blood vessels, lessening chances of heart attack. For the tense person whom smokes – a “killer” combination-walking offers aided help by decreasing the abnormally high levels of carbon monoxide nicotine in the blood. Walking may also increase the elasticity of the blood vessels, decreasing the likelihood that they will rupture under pressure-one cause of strokes. Walking is the safest form of exercise for men and women with osteoporosis.

Guidelines for walking:

  • Although a walking program is one of the safest and least strenuous forms of exercise, it is wise to consult your doctor before beginning one.
  • Avoid walking immediately after meals or in extremely hot, cold, humid or windy weather.
  • Wear properly fitted low-heeled shoes for maximum comfort and safety.
  • Do not push your body until you are gasping for breath. If you become tired, stop and rest
  • Walk smoothly, putting energy into each step. After a while, you will develop that rhythm and stride most natural for your weight and height.

Exercise is considered to be most important for the aged to maintain their health, both mentally and physically. Regular exercise is the cheapest and most sustaining medicine that can be prescribed for a great number of old age ailments. Regular exercise is one significant contribution we must make towards our own old age well-being.