Exercise and Quality of Life

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:  http://jah.sagepub.com/content/24/2/212.abstract



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