Extract Adapted From:
‘Physiology of Exercise and Healthy Aging’ by Albert W. Taylor
‘Fitness and Wellness’ by Carol K. Armbruster; Ellen M. Evans; Catherine M. Laughlin
Definition of Ageing
How do we define ageing? In the last two centuries, the average life expectancy in developed nations has nearly doubled, from 45 to 80 years. Most of us think about ageing in chronological terms, even though we are aware of differences in the physical appearance of individuals of similar ages. Moreover, we seldom think in terms of those physiological functions that are not so readily apparent to the eye.
As we age, we become aware of numerous changes. Although many of these changes are a part of normal ageing, environmental and lifestyle factors can also influence the ageing process. We have come to expect that with ageing, hair will turn grey and thin out, the skin will lose its elasticity, body shape will change, and wrinkles will appear. Loss of muscle mass may cause weakness in strength, which is generally replaced with increased fat distribution. We get shorter because of scoliosis or kyphosis or fallen arches, and older individuals tend to use more prostheses. Additionally, many other physiologically related cognitive changes are obvious with ageing.
Importance of Staying Active & Healthy Aging
Cardiovascular and muscular fitness can greatly contribute to continued or improved quality of life in seniors, and numerous organisations now promote the benefits of physical activity for health and wellness for all ages, this is known as active ageing. In middle age and at the beginning of old age, fitness helps maintain peak performance and postpones premature ageing. Throughout old age, fitness will enhance the quality of life. For the eldest, fitness will help with maintaining independence.
Ageing is also associated with a variety of physiological and cognitive changes. Although certain changes are undoubtedly a normal part of ageing, lifestyle and environment also play a considerable role in the process. For this reason, physical activity is widely agreed to enhance the quality of life in the elderly.
The common measure for the ageing process is the decline in function and structure. Healthy ageing is the ability to maintain independence, function, and quality of life into old age. Physical activity is an important component of healthy ageing, preventing or mitigating falls, pain, sarcopenia, osteoporosis, and cognitive impairment. Promoting exercise among the older population is an important public health issue and deserves attention.
Maintaining Mental Health Through Physical Activity
Mental health and mental illness concern a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. It also plays a huge part in controlling basic bodily functions such as breathing, swallowing, heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and sleep, and the brain’s control over sensory and motor systems, thoughts, emotions, and behaviours.
To gain an understanding of mental health is to understand the workings of the human brain. The brain is a complex and demanding organ, and optimal requirements for life-sustaining substances are very high. This highlights the necessity for efficient, continuous functioning of the body’s other organ systems in maintaining brain health.
As a consequence of ageing, many individuals are vulnerable to developing mental disorders such as depression or anxiety. The most common mental health problem in the elderly population is depression, with approximately 15% of women 65 and older and 10% of men 65 and older having clinically relevant symptoms of depression (1).
Risk factors for mental health issues in this population include changes in lifestyle, bereavement, stress related to managing chronic medical illnesses and their symptoms, loss of capacities and functional abilities, and social isolation. Loss of functional ability as a symptom of depression may be missed, mistaken as a natural consequence of ageing or physically disabling health conditions.
Staying active and exercising has been shown to improve mental health. Once encouraged for prevention of chronic disease alone, it is now well established that physical activity positively influences mental health and may prevent mental health problems like depression. It may also delay functional decline and help manage both depression and dementia.
Nutrition for a Healthy Lifestyle
Why is eating healthy important to you? Contemplate what affects your food choices, from your family traditions to your college friends, your mood and stress, or even your budget. Whatever your reasons, there are many benefits to consuming a healthy diet that can benefit you now so you can be a healthier version of yourself in the future.
By far the most important determinants of your fitness, health, and wellness are your lifestyle choices. A healthy lifestyle is made up of behaviours that improve your fitness, health, and wellness. The first three healthy lifestyle choices are performing regular physical activity, eating well, and managing stress. They are considered to be priority healthy living choices.
1- Weight Management
Energy balance can be a challenge. Without understanding calorie counting and recognising where calories are hidden in your diet, you may struggle to manage your weight. For example, many people do not recognise how many calories in their daily diet come from their drinks in the form of sweetened sodas, sports beverages, coffees, and teas. Learning about macronutrients and their associated calorie counts will help you understand the energy-in side of the energy balance equation.
2- Feeling and Performing Better
Fuel quality and hydration matter when it comes to performance, whether it is physical, mental, or social. Feeling sluggish because you are dehydrated can reduce the quality of your day. Skipping breakfast can give you a case of low blood sugar midmorning during primetime morning classes, which can make you shaky or perhaps give you a headache. Recall that your nervous system, especially your brain, uses glucose as its primary fuel source. Thus, mismanaging your blood sugar can compromise your ability to concentrate. Too much caffeine can also increase your anxiety. How you eat and drink can directly influence how you feel and how you perform.
3- Investment in a Healthier Future Version of Yourself
Over and above the link between dietary intake and weight management, diet has major implications for your risk of many chronic diseases, including the Big Metabolic Three and diseases related to body composition (osteoporosis, sarcopenia). Although these chronic diseases and conditions do not typically arrive until you are middle-aged or an older adult, healthy eating has direct implications for their risk factors.
– National Center for Health Statistics. 2016. Older Americans 2016: Key Indicators of Well-Being. Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics.