While physical rest and relaxation is integral to a healthy lifestyle, too much of a good thing can be deadly when it comes to inactivity. Numerous recent studies show that people who spend much of their waking hours sitting are putting themselves at risk for a host of chronic diseases and disabilities. When providing high-quality senior care for an elderly parent falls to you, educate yourself on how essential it is to keep you loved one consistently active every day.
Some Staggering Studies
A study from Northwestern University published in 2014 found that seniors 60 and older who are sedentary are at high risk for physical disability. “If there are two 65-year-old women, one sedentary for 12 hours a day and another sedentary for 13 hours a day, the second one is 50 percent more likely to be disabled.” This holds true regardless of how much moderate exercise she receives in the other hours. That is a powerful finding.
In 2015, Canadian researchers published a review of 47 studies on sedentary lifestyle. People who sat for long periods of time watching television, driving, or working at a computer had a higher risk of dying from all causes, including type 2 diabetes and cancer. Even those who exercised daily for an hour were not exempt from the adverse effects of inactivity. There is also evidence that excessive sitting is associated with a higher risk for dementia.
While researchers aren’t exactly sure why excessive sitting takes such a toll on health, some believe it is the result of the negative effects that inactivity has on sugar and fat metabolism, known contributors to heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
Tips to Help Keep Seniors Moving
So how can you help your elderly loved ones stay in motion more? Even just standing up or walking around the house for one to three minutes every half hour helps. Coordinate the stretch breaks with TV commercials. If your loved one is able to stand and pace while chatting on the phone, that makes a difference.
For seniors who are active online, a stand-up desk is a great option. If your parent is a techno gadget collector, considering purchasing a fitness monitoring device or a pedometer that provides instant feedback about how much he or she moving to keep up the motivation to stay more active.
When you and your loved one go shopping, attend doctors’ appointments, or participate in other senior care outings, park a bit further away from the door to help mom or dad get in a short walk. If physical condition allows, make a weekly family park visit or beach stroll a new tradition. Perhaps a trip to an art museum or downtown gallery walk would inspire mom to move more often? Is there a hobby or interest that’s been lying dormant that you can help revive? Painting, gardening, baking, or French cooking?
Make Use of Senior Center Facilities
If your loved one lives close to a senior center, availing yourself of the offerings there can be a huge help. With older adults now composing a significant portion of the population, senior centers have innovative programs and new opportunities that target this active age group. You’ll often find health and group fitness classes, including yoga, low impact aerobics, Zumba, and Tai Chi. Along with an increase in activity, seniors benefit from the social interaction—another critical factor in overall health—found at senior centers. In fact, the NCOA found that when compared with their peers, “senior center participants have higher levels of health, social interaction, and life satisfaction.” They reduce their risks for chronic diseases and enjoy measurable increases in well-being.
Staying in motion, even leisurely motion, is the magic potion. It’s essential for keeping the vital processes going that govern physical, emotional, and cognitive health so important for optimal senior care.