Archive for March, 2012

Exercise and Quality of Life

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Does inactivity give older adults the blues? Or does unhappiness get in the way of elders getting more exercise? I just read in the Journal of Aging and Health citing a study in Brazil, about exercise and the quality of life, which concluded that “increases in the levels of physical activity can contribute to improvements in quality of life of older adults.”  This brings up the question of whether it is the increased activity that improves life, or whether those who are already more active are already having an easier time getting through their days.  Where does it begin? My view is that it doesn’t matter. It’s a circle that can be entered at any point.

For instance, if Bonnie’s hip pain is keeping her from coming to chair exercise group, then she misses out on the social connections and pleasant conversation of the group, as well as the music that makes her smile and the the change of scene from her apartment. So the loss is much greater than merely lack of physical activity. On the other hand, if Bonnie opts to come to class anyway, she may not actually do much more movement than she would have at home, since “everything hurts.”  But one of the solutions to inactivity is engagement in life.  And one of the solutions to isolation is increased activity. Her presence in class may bring other social invitations, and more places to go and things to do. So her quality of life may be enriched while her overall amount of movement in a day inches up with each outing. The best case scenario is that her functional ability will also improve.

Then there’s Sylvia. At age 96, she not the ballroom dancer she was in earlier years, but she still loves to move to music and attend the chair exercise class, even though she has already taken a walk outside. She participates in other, more challenging,  fitness offerings at her retirement community, but the seated exercise class is better than dozing off in her recliner,  and she feels it improves her flexibility.  She’s already sold on the principle that exercise will improve her quality of life. She’s one of the people that makes research register a high correlation between physical activity and quality of life.

Eppie is prone to moping around her apartment and forces herself to get to the chair exercise class. It’s a “long walk,” and she gets tired, but she knows that she will feel better at the end of the day for having gotten out. She benefits from building a habit of attending class and over time becomes one of those people who seems to be happier. It may have taken will power at first, but all the elements of the class add up to greater health as well as improved quality of life.

It does not matter where someone enters the circle. It all adds up to breaking (or preventing) the downward spiral of  a shrinking life. Exercise for frail elderly may do a lot by itself to improve quality of life, but there are many more benefits embedded in solutions to inactivity.

To find the  article in Journal of Aging and Health, go to:



Sedentary Elders Benefit from Exercise

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

I’m so impressed with the members of my chair exercise class. I’m sure they don’t think of themselves as frail elderly. They come to class regularly to move beyond inactivity. We loosen all the joints, gently warm up all the muscles, and enjoy moving to music.
But it’s not the regular attendance that wows me,  it’s that members of the group are applying the exercises to their everyday lives. At each class, I hear stories of success using a practical exercise or its benefit out in the real world.
With her permission, here is Bernice’s story:
“I had a little accident with a shopping cart the other day and ended up with my whole hand bruised. I remembered our hand and finger exercises and did them throughout the day. The bruising diminished very quickly and I’m glad I remembered I could do something to dissipate the internal bleeding.”
After hearing Bernice’s story, the group discussed the connection between exercise and improved circulation to speed healing. “As long as it doesn’t make it feel worse,” Janet adds.
Some of our regular moves aim directly at providing a solution to a common issue. We’ll even use that as the nickname for the exercise, such as, “always able to put on your socks.” If you don’t challenge your  flexibility on a daily basis, you tend to lose your range of motion and then what was once a simple, daily action, that hardly took your attention, becomes a challenge demanding new equipment or assistance. Invest in what you want to be able to do.
The members of the group are sedentary, but they know that any effort to move is a move in the right direction, toward being more able: just the regular participation in the group has kept most of us more  independent. Regular exercise has numerous benefits, and one of them is to maintain the ability to do everyday tasks.