Positive effects of being active are not limited by age
July 3, 2020
mum and daughter dancing

BLOG -DR CRAIG SHERIDAN
@drcraigsheridan

In my first blog, I talked about some of the physical and mental health benefits children experience when exercising regularly and how, as a family, we have used exercise as a way of coping with and enjoying our time at home together during this pandemic. 

But it’s clear that the positive effects of being active are not limited by age, even if the recommended levels of exercises do differ a little across age groups.

These differences are based on the most up-to-date recommendations made by the UK chief medical officer, published in September 2019 which can be seen on the download links below.

ACTIVITY FOR EARLY YEARS BIRTH-5

ACTIVITY FOR YOUNG PEOPLE 5-18

ACTIVITY FOR OLDER ADULTS

What’s notable about these recommendations is just how universally accepted they are, from one country to another, the guidance on how much (and how intensely) we exercise differs very little.

One point that stands out and is worth emphasising in these newest guidelines is the added focus on doing muscle strengthening exercise.  These are not new additions to the guidance, but in the past, we have tended to treat advice about muscle strengthening as, dare I say, an afterthought when discussing physical activity with our patients.  But the new guidance makes it clear that we should be recommending muscle strengthening exercises with the same emphasis as we give to say walking, jogging or cycling.

Here’s why…

Loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength correlates with physical disability, poor quality of life and death. We have a medical term for this ‘Sarcopenia’, which is from the Greek language and literally translates to flesh (sarx) poverty (penia).  It’s a syndrome that as clinicians we are increasingly aware of, particularly in our elderly patients and we know that risk factors for sarcopenia include gender, age, and level of physical activity. 

The new guidelines reinforce the importance of muscle-strengthening activities for all age groups and highlight the additional benefit of balance and flexibility exercises for older adults.

So to help maintain and improve the aerobic fitness and muscle strength of older people, particularly those who are isolated and shielding, Public Health England have created a guide to being active at home during the coronavirus outbreak. Download it here.

Of course, the tips they give should be applied even with the easing of lockdown.

Dr Craig Sheridan
GP & Specialty Registrar in Sports and Exercise Medicine
MBChB BSc (Hons) MRCGP (2013) MSc dip SEM (Distinction) MFSEM (UK)

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