Why you should stay active as you age

It’s important to first consult a specialist before engaging in any kind of physical activity, to measure their nutritional status, blood sugar levels, muscle mass, among others, and advise them accordingly.

As we grow older, experts say there are many changes when it comes to the body; physical, psychological and emotional.

Regarding ageing, there are a number of things that should be put into consideration.

What happens as we age?

Gerald Ruzindana, a health and wellness specialist at Amazon Nutrition Cabinet, a clinic in Kigali, says people should adopt a healthy lifestyle, especially as they age.

This, he explains, is because the body does not function as well as it used to.

For instance, the metabolic function slows down, the flexibility levels in the body also go down.

Depending on one’s lifestyle at a young age, Ruzindana says that normally, 55 to 60 years and above is when they start experiencing such changes.

Participants during car free day’s exercise programme. 

However, he says that some signs of an ageing body are minimised in people who have a healthy lifestyle.

He explains that as the body ages, it communicates, and one is supposed to know the pointers that the body is giving to help adjust to the kind of lifestyle it requires.

What to do

Dr Janvier Rusizana, a general practitioner at La Nouvelle Clinique in Remera, Kigali, says older people have to be cautious about the exercises they take on, but in general, physical activity remains paramount.

He says some people do not do exercise during their younger years, making it important for them to be active as they age.

“This is important due to the nature of the continuous deterioration of body functions, where the body needs to be stimulated so that it can function well,” he says.

He adds that our bodies are created in the same way, but function differently, meaning that each person has specific lifestyle recommendations.

Ruzindana says there are over 360 joints in our bodies and that all of them have to move, and so, living a sedentary kind of lifestyle becomes an issue.

For instance, he says, at his clinic, they always recommend aerobic exercises that involve flexibility drills—stretching, swimming, brisk walking and cycling.

Why exercise is important

Private Kamanzi, a nutritionist and dietician at Amazon Cabinet Clinic, says as people age, their memory deteriorates; but with exercise, it’s easy for one to keep their memory alert.

“Sometimes, as people grow older, they have issues with psychological balance; they can get angry easily, be over anxious or suffer depression. Exercise helps to stimulate the hormone which offers a feel good status in the body, thus doing away with all of this,” he says.

On the other hand, Yvan Ntwali, a physician, says when adults remain active in life, it helps keep chronic illnesses that are common in this age group at bay. 

He says one of the reasons why older people fall ill is a weakened immune system which leads to ailments like joint pain, and arthritis, among others.

Ruzindana says there are some chronic diseases that people normally age with, like hypertension, and diabetes, among others. These, he says, can be avoided with regular physical exercise and other healthy lifestyle choices.

He explains that physical activity in elderly people helps increase their body mass; when one ages, the muscle mass slows down and they continue to weaken.

“This can be seen by wrinkles on their bodies, and so to maintain the body mass, exercise is key. Besides, physical activity also helps improve quality of life, including a healthy sleeping pattern,” he says.

He says that some elderly people suffer from insomnia, and so exercise helps balance melatonin in the body which improves sleep.

“When this is done, blood pressure also stabilises, making it easy to manage stress,” he adds.

Kamanzi says exercise helps control weight and when inactive, there is general deterioration leading to weight gain.

Ruzindana says exercise helps improve body posture, especially for the elderly.

He says there are issues that come with poor postures, like muscle and bone difficulties.

Kamanzi says good nutrition is essential for ageing people, although it’s equally important to youngsters too.

He says everyone should embrace a balanced diet.

“It’s up to an individual to support their bodies with the right food. For instance, its ideal to increase protein intake in elderly people because it helps in cellular formation and balancing the muscle mass in the body,” he says.

They should also add potassium, Vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, fatty acid from fish and avocados, among others.

Psychological change

Ruzindana says the elderly need to work around mood swings, and have balanced psychological functions because there are mental disorders that come with ageing.

He says this includes being too emotional resulting in depression and anxiety, among others.

Free medical checkups are offered on car free day. / Courtesy photos

This, he says, can be aided by having people around and listening to soft music, socialising and promoting a healthy lifestyle.

However, he says, it’s important to first consult a specialist before engaging in any kind of physical activity, to measure their nutritional status, blood sugar levels, muscle mass, among others, and advise them accordingly.

“They can also help with a diet plan, which includes the food they should eat and how often they should work out,” he says.

He explains that sometimes depending on a person’s condition, some people can’t do the exercise that the body needs.

“When it comes to this, there are other exercise modes that are encouraged, including massage and other therapies that can be adopted not as a treatment, but a lifestyle,” he says.


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