There can be no doubt that exercising is important, no matter which stage of life we are at.
It remains the most consistent advice given by doctors that regular activity is the best way to prevent, and keep at bay, thousands of illnesses and diseases which could otherwise have a serious impact on our lives.
And it’s not just the physical stuff exercise helps us with. Scientists have long heralded exercise as one of the most natural means through which we can promote emotional wellbeing, allowing us to access those feel good chemicals – endorphins!
The challenge as we age however, when our bodies are typically not at their peak and years of wear and tear often limits us to less demanding exercises, is how do we continue to maintain health through activity? How can we stay active despite slowing down?
Here is the first recommendation in our series…swimming!
One of the most popular exercises among the elderly, and one of our favourites too, is swimming.
Whether it’s taking part in activity in a softer environment, or the convenience and accessibility of the local pool, it seems we all have our own reasons for enjoying a swim in our older age.
The great news for us, particularly those of us in our senior years, is you don’t have to be an Olympian to swim either. You can go entirely at your own pace.
But even going at your own pace means swimming can be extremely beneficial.
Swimming is a fantastic way to promote cardiovascular health, which in turn means a better defence system against CVD or cardio vascular disease – a blanket term that describes all sorts of conditions associated with the heart and blood vessels.
Some of the most prevalent CVD conditions are the likes of heart disease and diabetes, both of which are common among adults in their senior years. Swimming helps to counter all of these, a view supported by the NHS in their recent report.
Swimming also reduces the chance of suffering from a stroke, which becomes a greater risk factor in older age. For individuals who have suffered from a stroke, the pool is one of the recommended environments on the path to recovery – allowing individuals to bend, stretch and walk under less physical pressure.
For osteoporosis sufferers and individuals with reduced bone densities, which are common in old age, swimming means activity is possible without the pain that is experienced when taking part in higher impact activities.
The list doesn’t stop there either. A study by the Counsilman Centre for the Science of Swimming Human Performance Laboratory) reports the following benefits from swimming:
- Improves our stability and core strength
- Decreases triglycerides (which store fat)
- Reduces blood pressure
- Builds skeletal muscle mass equalling improvements in strength, muscle tone, and power.
- Leaves us with less bad cholesterol
- Enhances our cardiopulmonary system (aerobic fitness)
- Improves our high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is the good form of cholesterol
While swimming is clearly great for us physically, it also helps us maintain and improve our mental state.
Exercising in the water is a quiet, smooth and rhythmical experience which can promote mindfulness and meditative qualities. These in turn help to relieve depression like symptoms and anxiety.
The wearing of muscles helps to relieve tension and irritability, allowing our bodies to feel more relaxed. This heightened state of relaxation has a considerably positive impact on our sleeping patterns – which is another major factor in relieving mental stress and the consequence of mental illness.
Among the elderly in particular, swimming helps to promote memory, concentration and focus, which are essential resources to help prevent dementia.
Next time you’re stuck for ideas on how to stay active – why not try out swimming?