There is a mountain of evidence on the benefits of regular physical exercise for physical and mental health: It has been proven that it helps prevent chronic non-communicable diseases (cardiovascular, diabetes and some types of cancer, among others), decreases symptoms of anxiety and depression y strengthens the immune system. In summary: helps to live longer and better.
As a counterpart, a sedentary lifestyle and physical inactivity are associated with the strong advance of overweight and obesity in Argentina and the world, which favors the development and worse prognosis of the aforementioned pathologies, the loss of muscle mass, balance and resistance.
In older people, that combo increases the risk of frailtywhich is why international physical activity guidelines recommend exercising regularly in all stages of lifeincluding the elderly.
How much and what kind of exercise to do
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommended in their guides the realization of at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity per week for all adults, including people living with chronic conditions or disabilities, and an average of 60 minutes per day for children and adolescents.
Tips to start
The problem is that many people are faced with that recommendation at an advanced age, after having spent a lifetime sedentary or no history of practicing exercise or sports.
But not to worry, “It’s always a good time to start and lead a healthy life in movement”, encourages Mariano Sassano, a graduate in Physical Education and Sports, a master’s degree in social gerontology and a professor at the Faculty of Human Motricity and Sports of the Inter-American Open University (UAI).
Sassano, who is also president of the Human Rights Social Network for Active and Healthy Aging (RSDHEAS 23 Provinces), in dialogue with Clarion developed a series of tips that help people without a history of physical activity to get moving and maintain an active life.
“The important thing within the general recommendations, and for what I always advocate, is that the activities at this time of year are outdoors. Because even those who do not like to do physical activity, find a connection with the environment and the life in nature, which is a psychological and emotional enhancer to be active and sustain it over time,” he explained.
According to the specialist, the open air stimulates the practice of exercise and favors adherence to the activity.
“I suggest doing it at a time when UV rays are not high. From early, until 11 in the morning can be a good time slot. In summer, the other would be from 5 or 6 p.m. onwards,” he specified.
A key point for the person to maintain consistency is to find an activity in which have fun and like it.
“We cannot say that the entire population has the same interest in going to a water activity or walking. As it is so diverse, I always aim for the person to choose the activity and not impose it on them. That is what will make lasts in timeSassano stressed.
The importance of the group
According to the specialist in physical activity and gerontology, in general, for people who have never done physical activity and do not have this previous experience, it can help them do not start alonebut to be part of a group.
“It depends on each context, but groups of a maximum of 10 members are recommended. There, the person who has never done physical activity can catch the desire from others to participate in the activity,” he explained.
Low (or no) impact
One of the main points that they have to consider, especially in the first weeks of activity, is that the chosen exercise is without impact or low impact. (no running or jumping).
“This has to do with the no musculoskeletal preparation to be able to perform that physical practice in case it has an impact.”
High-impact activities can negatively influence “the muscular system, the joint with all its components, ligaments and even the insertion of sedentary muscles,” he said.
In addition, he explained that in the very short term “it can be generate microlesions and, if a more severe injury is generated, unfortunately, the activity will have to be interrupted for a very long time,” continued the professor.
If the latter occurs, the beginner “is going to have a bitter taste: once you get close to doing physical activity you get injured. Then, those ghosts that some sedentary people have about physical activity begin, since they think it is not for them, “he analyzed.
What activities to choose: from aerobic to strength
Taking into account the previous guidelines, it is time to choose what to do to get moving.
Sassano differentiates two stages. In the first, it is essential ir gradually increasing the resistance capacity.
“Any person, regardless of their age, if they do not have resistance, they will not be able to bear it, and as a result, they will feel displeasure and move away from the activity,” he explained.
In this first stage, he said, activities that are more cyclical are recommended, such as cycling, where there is permanent pedaling without impact.
“Obviously, we also add the water activities and outdoor walking activities in squares, parks and neighborhood blocks, as ideal for this first adaptive organic/functional phase,” he stated.
If all this is fulfilled with a certain regularity, the specialist estimated that around four to six weeks later It can begin to be combined with musculoskeletal strengthening activities, with the addition of extra loads to the body’s own weight such as elastic bands, dumbbells, more demanding mechanical movements such as squats and lunges.
The latter are exercises more related to activities called counter-resistance, which are related to the second phase of body adaptation.
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