SPORTS COUNCIL URGES OVER-50’S TO GET ACTIVE

- BENEFITS

Studies consistently show that regular exercise can help lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels, decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke, lower the risk of obesity and diabetes, lower the risk of certain types of cancer, reduce the risk of osteoporosis and boost the immune system.

As you grow older, your chances of developing heart disease increase. Research from the British Heart Foundation shows that regular physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your heart and can halve your risk of developing the disease. Even if you have already had a heart attack, a programme of physical activity reduces the risk of having another attack.

The risk of osteoporosis becomes far greater for both men and women once they hit 50. For the one in three women and one in eight men over the age of 50 who are affected by osteoporosis, regular exercise can influence the condition and play a part in the rehabilitation process.

Regular exercise is vital for maintaining muscle strength and bone density, which decline with age. When muscles aren’t used, they waste away which will affect your ability to perform daily activities, leave you more prone to injury and increase your chance of suffering a fall. The elderly can also benefit from improved posture, balance and flexibility.

Staying physically fit has been found to help people maintain memory longer throughout their lives. As people get older, their memory skills can deteriorate and physical activity can help ward off this effect for some time.

There are no side effects from exercise, as long as it is done correctly. Before you start seek the advice of your doctor, especially if you suffer from heart disease, arthritis or asthma. Even so, there should be some form of exercise out there for everybody.

- CASE STUDIES

Name: William Keeling

Age: 90

From: Dinas Powys

On Tuesday’s William Keeling hits the courts for a game of badminton. He rests his racquet on Wednesday’s when he joins a local rambling group for a weekly walk but it is picked back up every Thursday for squash and every Friday for tennis. Time spent in the garden is counted as a rest day.

This energy is nothing new. William began playing tennis at age 16, picking up other racquet sports along the way. It’s a routine that has seen him through 74 years of adult life, and today he can still finesse anything that comes over the net. "I love sport and I really look forward to playing with the same group every week. The only difference today is that competition is far less intense – life’s too short for that!"

Putting people half, even a quarter of his age to shame, William isn’t one to preach of his efforts, adding that "people should draw their own conclusions." And the chances are that conclusions would be pretty conclusive. Today he finds himself in prime physical health through a hearty mix of sport, walking and gardening.

Name: John Williams

Age: 79

From: Caerphilly

As headmaster of the local school John Williams was always active. With children buzzing around him he had little option but to keep moving. So when retirement came calling he made the most of what he’d rarely before had time to do and sat back and put his feet up!

His respite was deserved reward for a lifetime of hard graft and he quickly adapted to his laid back lifestyle.

Exercise simply didn’t feature in John’s retirement plan. He became increasingly sedentary and before long the effects of his physical activity shortfall showed themselves. Breathlessness forced a visit to the Doctor where he was diagnosed with angina.

The angina quickly became unstable and he was experiencing increasing chest pain, even when he wasn’t active in any way. An angiogram at the hospital revealed severe blockages in the heart and John immediately underwent a heart bypass.

After attending cardiac rehabilitation – which stressed the importance of staying active and the benefits it can bring – exercise soon featured in John’s retirement plan!

John now attends circuit classes twice a week and walks nearly every other week. As well as feeling fitter and healthier, he has discovered that exercise also helps control his diabetes.

He says: "Exercise has had a tremendous impact on my life. I feel a lot fitter since my bypass six years ago which has improved my quality of life. I also enjoy the fellowship of attending group sessions."