It’s a fact – following a regular exercise program will benefit you in body and mind, writes The Physio Co founder and CEO, Tristan White
Staying fit into later life makes perfect sense, right? Stay active and you’ll enjoy a better quality of life for longer, and be happier. So why do some people find excuses?
One we’ve heard at The Physio Co is that people are too old. Too old? You’re kidding me. We are living longer, our healthcare in Australia is regularly ranked among the best in the world, and the accessibility to gyms, pools and other facilities for all ages is second to none.
Now, that may sound easy for me to say, in my 40s, so I’ll defer to one of my elders on this – albeit an incredibly fit elder in sports science expert Professor Peter Reaburn. Peter recently delivered a seminar for our physiotherapists where we posed that very question about age.
“No, people are not too old to do something and, and I think there’s too many doubters.
“A physiotherapist may doubt that a person can do what you would ideally like them to. Don’t accept that, get them doing something that’s going to challenge them. The challenge must be realistic around their health and their limitations – but you need to show them that they can do something.
“Let’s say 10 body weight squats, and if their balance is poor they just hold onto a wall or they hold onto the banister of the stairs. Or they hold your hands to do four squats – four squats is better than zero squats.
“Next time we’re going to do six or we’re going to do eight. But you need to show and educate them that they can do that, and particularly educate them on the benefits for longer-term health and mobility.”
Enjoyment of life
Exercise = enjoyment of life. Simple really. Exercise makes you happy – and if that makes me sound like something of an exercise evangelist, so be it.
The Australian Sports Commission’s most recent AusPlay survey revealed that the main motivation (81%) of over-65s to exercise was health and fitness, but the second – significantly – was fun and enjoyment (41%). The third-biggest motivation, social (30%), is another huge factor.
Lots of our clients enjoy the social aspect – they may live alone and enjoy the interaction with their physio, or like getting together with a friend to join the session.
At The Physio Co, we help clients to meaningful goals and then smash them out of the park! And that leads to a better quality of life.
So why don’t some older Australians exercise? It’s a bit of a Catch 22 for some – their health may have deteriorated, because they’ve been inactive for too long. They’ve raised their kids, they’ve had a career, but when it’s time to look after themselves again they’re 20 kilos overweight and have problems with knees, hips, ankles and shoulders.
Peter says: “What is the barrier? They think they are too old. They don’t believe they can do it. It’s too risky. It’s unsafe. We need to change that thinking.
“We need to be showing people there is just too much research saying that by either meeting these health guidelines or moving from nothing to something is going to benefit health – and by benefiting health, you’re going to live longer, and you’re going to have a better quality of life.”
Push the boundaries
Historically, health advice could be quite conservative, and we need to push the boundaries a little bit, particularly with older people. As Peter puts it – he’s an older athlete and hates being treated as a 67-year-old.
“Do not say to me I can’t do what I want to do – I want someone who believes I can,” he says. “And if your physiotherapy staff believe that someone can do it based on the screening and their knowledge of the client and their goals, then encourage them to get there. Have a crack.”
And that’s pretty much what we do at The Physio Co – we’ll instruct you and we’ll inspire you to go beyond what you may have thought were your limits. Have a crack. See where it takes you.
- Professor Peter Reaburn is a “pretty fit 67-year-old” who has been very active all his life and practises what he preaches. He still enjoys sport in all its forms, from watching footy on television to swimming competitively. He has a PhD in exercise physiology, still works at Bond University as an honorary professor, walks most days and “I still enjoy surfing at my age. Love it.” When getting up on his board became harder than it once was, he started racking up the burpees at the gym to counter this decline.
- This article is based on a presentation Professor Peter Reaburn gave to The Physio Co’s in-house TPC SWARM event.