Tahir Masud, a professor of geriatric medicine and president of the British Geriatrics Society, points out that keeping up good levels of physical activity can reduce the risk of dementia and depression by up to 30%, type 2 diabetes by 40%, and cut the chances of getting certain cancers, such as breast and colon cancer, by 20-30%.
Here, Moran and Masud outline seven the best ways for older people to keep fit and healthy.
One of the most important things about looking after yourself as you get older is making sure you’re as active as possible, stresses Masud, who says older people should aim for 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical exercise per week, like walking, jogging or cycling, with a particular emphasis on maintaining strength and balance.
Moran’s Keep Fit And Carry On DVD, which she’s proud to say she home filmed herself during lockdown, is designed to get older people moving gently. “I’m very, very aware of how exercise in moderation (I’m not talking about going to the gym and pumping iron and all that business) is important to maintain your good health,” she says.
Minimise sedentary time
If managing proper exercise is too much, Masud says people should at least try to get up a bit more frequently if possible, rather than being too sedentary for long periods. “You shouldn’t just sit in front of the TV without getting up regularly,” he says. “If you’re watching a programme for an hour, you should get up a few times, even if it’s to make a cup of tea.”
Avoid ‘bad’ things
It’s an obvious one, but just because smoking and drinking haven’t killed you yet doesn’t mean they won’t get you in the future. “Older people need to reduce smoking and excessive alcohol,” says Masud. “There’s lots of evidence that if you want to stay healthy as you get older, you’ve got to cut back on those particular things.”
Masud says the NHS Eat Well Guide gives a good outline of what your diet should look like as you get older. “The important things are to cut back on carbohydrates and sugar, but what’s stressed is that an adequate amount of protein, for example eggs, meat, fish, and pulses, is really important,” he says. “If you don’t have enough protein, you’ve got an increased chance of becoming frail, which causes problems such as falls and other issues.”
In addition, everyone (at any age) needs to try to eat five portions of different fruit and vegetables a day, and plenty of fibre.
“Loneliness isn’t a good thing for your future health,” says Masud. “And as you get older, if you get socially isolated and lonely, it can increase the risk of heart disease, depression and dementia.”
Although the brain isn’t technically a muscle, it still needs ‘exercising’ like one. “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it,” explains Masud. “You start developing cognitive impairment and losing your memory.”
And lonely older people may have a higher risk of heart disease simply because having more reasons to socialise means you’re more likely to get out and about, which means keeping your body and brain more active. Getting out and about also reduces the risk of obesity, which can affect the heart too.