You’re never too old to start exercising

Shaheem Laattoe and Yusuf Mohamed, 58, during a workout.

As we are publishing our last column this week we focus on how physical activity is good for people of all ages, including senior citizens. Staying active can help to lower your risk of heart disease, for stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer. Improve your strength and balance so you can prevent injuries and stay independent. Shaheem Laattoe, a fitness trainer, shared some tips with ROSHAN ABRAHAMS that it’s never too late to start getting fit and ageing adults can benefit from doing a few simple exercises daily.

Maintaining regular physical activity can help prevent many common diseases, such as heart disease. Shaheem gave a few examples on how seniors may benefit from exercise. “Managing or preventing common diseases, improving mental health, everyday tasks – will become easier, strength training will work those muscle groups that may have become weak and immobile and may help with posture as well.”

Studies show that insufficient sleep puts added stress on the body, leading to inflammation and a weakened immune system. Shaheem said he cannot stick to the seven to eight hours guide for optimal sleep, however, “I believe some can perform their daily tasks with less sleep than others. If I do feel a bit exhausted during the day and I do have time, I will have a quick nap of 30 minutes. It works wonders.”

Although workouts cannot reverse the ageing process, Shaheem said one gets stronger and improves your endurance and posture. “I believe anyone can always improve their current fitness. With the right guidance, a professional would be able to give you a training programme suited to your age, weight, fitness level and keep you accountable for goals that you may have.”

Essential to stay strong and vital during older adulthood is participation in regular strengthening exercises, which help to prevent osteoporosis and frailty by stimulating the growth of muscle and bone. Once people hit a certain age they stop making an effort to exercise. However, as we age, “the muscles become weak, we lose muscle mass and strength, which will lead to simple tasks like dressing becoming difficult,” said Shaheem.

When the first health and fitness column was published in January, Shaheem was approached by Yusuf Mohamed, 58, who wanted to lose weight and become fitter. “Even though he was walking a good distance once a week, it was not enough. From the time he started with me until now, it’s been over two months, and he’s truly like a new person. When he walks into the gym now, he walks with a sense of confidence, a spring in his step and he looks forward to his workouts.”

Shaheem said movements Yusuf used to struggle with “are so much easier for him now as well as his weekly walks up Jacobs Ladder in Kalk Bay.”

After sticking to regular sessions, Yusuf is noticing that his clothing is becoming bigger, “especially his shirts and he can see how the centimetres have dropped,” said Shaheem.

Although Shaheem does not spoonfeed Yusuf an eating plan, he “will always recommend going to see a dietitian as they are the experts in that field.”

Shaheem advises ageing adults to work on good posture, especially runners. “We should exercise as long as we can but also do a variety of cardiovascular fitness and strength training. It’s very impressive to see seniors running but you will notice those who only do running, have poor posture. This can be corrected by doing strength training as well.”

Seniors can do simple exercises at home under supervision or in a group. ”Squatting off a chair or bed, a push-up against a wall, dips for triceps and getting a thera-band resistance band for home use to do exercises like bicep curls and rows for your back muscles.”

Shaheem quotes Yvonne Dowlen, an 88-year-old figure skater, speaking to the ageing adult: “As you grow older, if you don’t move, you won’t move.”

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• People with pre-existing medical conditions should consult with a family physician before starting an exercise programme.

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