Not a 'walk in the park'

Source: Shutterstock.

Photo: Source: Shutterstock.

A report examining seniors’ exercise habits has found many are not doing enough to improve strength, coordination and balance.

Almost a third of Australians over the age of 65 are doing no exercise at all and the study of more than 22,000 Australians aged over 65 years, revealed of the elderly who exercise, most take part in aerobic activities such as walking, which is beneficial to heart fitness but does little to protect against falls or loss of bone mass.

The lead author of the study, Dafna Merom, said it was important to find out why.

It could be an issue of accessibility, it could be a confidence issue, it could be the cost of participation,” Associate Professor Merom, of the University of Western Sydney's school of science and health, said.

“But as we get older we need to provide protection to all of our systems, not just our cardiovascular system,” she added.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, one in every 10 days spent in hospital by a person aged 65 and older in 2008-09 was directly caused by an injurious fall.

Though activities such as dancing, yoga, weightlifting and tai chi offered some of the best protection against falls, they also had the lowest participation rate by those over 65, the study found. Walking was favoured by nearly half of participants.

“We don't want people to stop walking because it's very beneficial, but we do need to think differently about older people and why we are not making activities like dance more available to them,” Professor Merom said.

Research was needed to find activities suitable for older people that benefited several types of fitness at once, she added.

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