Finding ways to stay active is as important for your general wellbeing as it is for your fitness. How do you make sure you’re finding ways to move more?

Finding ways to stay active is as important for your general well being as it is for your fitness.

As we get older, it’s natural to become more sedentary and settled into home life. Whether it’s you or your loved ones, we still need to find that fine balance so we stay active in some way.

There’s no denying that participating in recreational activities contributes to healthy ageing, and getting in regular, moderate-intensity physical activity is crucially important to enhance and maintain functional ability and quality of life. Outside of the benefits of physical activity, feeling valued and appreciated also have a critical bearing on wellbeing. Social connectedness, meaningful social activities, and contributions to others are significant predictors of wellbeing.

This is why it’s so important to consider our sociability when we talk about staying active and keeping our wellbeing in check. Social support is valuable in motivating activity and making it enjoyable. If we feel comfortable and supported, we’re able to enjoy recreational activities and feel connected with others. Conversely, if we become socially isolated, we’re at risk of depression and low morale. Although men are more susceptible than women to these risks, we should all be aware of the importance of keeping our social networks strong through activities. Not sure where to start? There are plenty of ways to get involved in clubs and activities that will boost sociability.

Getting out and about

If it does become apparent that your parents or a loved one is getting up and about less, then it may be time to step in and encourage them to get moving more often and remain connected to their friends and community. If you’re concerned that they aren’t keeping active, but you’re not sure of the best approach, these seven tips are a great place to start.

  1. Lead by example. The best way to encourage your loved ones to get out and about is to stay active yourself! If you make a point of prioritising your own health, you’re more than likely to encourage them along the way. It also means you can get active together – even if it’s simply through the indicental exercise that comes with walking to your local café!
  2. Think about what activities they like. If your loved one hasn’t shown an interest in the gym, chances are they won’t rush into joining one now. Other options they may be more inclined to try are Pilates, Yoga, Tai Chi or even dance classes that are tailored for seniors. If they’re always talking about how much they loved a bike ride, or how they’ve missed hiking or playing a round of golf, suggest they get back out there and give it a go again.
  3. Walking is always a winner. Whenever you get the opportunity and it’s realistic to do so, encourage walking to get from A to B. These don’t have to be long distances, but every little bit adds up. Often there are walking groups that you can sign up for in your local area – it’s often more motivating if you're with company.
  4. Suggest volunteering. There are few better ways to engage with the community and have a reason to get out of the house than volunteering for a cause that you are passionate about. If it’s a charity or organisation nearby that can be accessed by walking, even better!
  5. Practice positivity. Whether you’re getting active with your parents or encouraging them to do so on their own, point out the positives. Do they seem happier or sleep better after a bout of exercise? Once they remember how good it makes them feel, it’ll put an extra spring in their step and they’ll feel more inclined to exercise.
  6. Embrace the benefits of technology. Beyond being active, technology is a great way to support your ageing parent to live happily and independently at home. Having to rely on others for practical help can contribute to lower self-esteem and feelings of being a burden, so empowering your parent to use technology to do their shopping online or pay their bills will help them feel independent and in control. Tablets also come in handy for entertainment; your loved one can read books, play games, stay updated on the news, watch TV or movies or any number of activities that interest them.
  7. Consider getting them a pet. The health benefits that pets bring to humans have been widely researched. Scientific studies show that spending time with pets can produce significant physical and emotional responses across all age groups. This is especially true for older people living independently.

While issues of mobility may require the support of an allied health professional, if your loved one isn’t facing any major physical difficulties at the moment, then a little encouragement can go a long way to help them stay active well into their later years.

What to remember

Staying active and connected to friends and community positively impacts wellbeing. It’s OK to slow down, but ensure you maintain activities that will keep you stimulated and engaged. Family and friends can play a key role in achieving this.