The more we understand the potential of human movement to affect physical, emotional, and chemical realms, the greater our ability to enhance the lives of our clients.
And while our older population's goals are based around the real life need to be mobile, agile, and as pain free as possible, understanding that movement can also positively affect their emotional and chemical states makes scheduling and prescribing regular movement sessions even more powerful of a lifestyle choice for them.
There's a splendid satisfaction that comes from working with older adults.
Movement, for anybody, is enhancement of physicality; movement for the ageing is enhancement of life. Why? Movement doesn't just make us stronger, fitter and more agile. When our muscles move, our hearts pump, and our lungs release oxygen, this has a pump-like effect on the rest of the body.
These actions stimulate essential blood, nutrients and hydration to circulate around the body and to pump these elements of goodness into our tissues, deeply nourishing them.
They also encourage our lymphatic system to be both efficient and effective by heightening the circulation of our lymph fluid, and therefore assisting in the elimination of toxins and waste from our body.
And finally, it aids in the production and release of the amazing little chemicals we call neurotransmitters, which affect our emotional wellbeing, focus and cognitions.
In essence, when we don't move, our whole body suffers – physically, emotionally and spiritually too.
Exercise, at any point in our life, should be as much about facilitating strength, fitness and agility gains within our bodies today, as much as it is prepping them for later life.
We should be exercising for life and for our quality of life. And this is the exact reason why people in their retired or later years should continue to move – to keep their bodies as youthful, exuberant and vital for as long as possible.
It's about starting where you are with what you have. It's about being able to do what you want to do. What are the activities that have a decent physical aspect and that bring you the greatest amount of joy and freedom?
What are the activities that encourage you to be outside in the fresh air, moving your body in a myriad of ways, and enable you to connect with others? When you can combine all of these elements while attending to your daily movement requirements, so many boxes are ticked. And the body and mind both smile.
Movement is also a great pastime for pulling oneself into the now, the present moment. This can be particularly useful in stressful times or when a particular event or set of events is troubling and burdening you.
Embracing the infinite qualities of healthy and enjoyable movement enables us to take a vacation from the stress, if even for a short spell in your day. The positive benefits associated with this extend beyond the physical realm and into the relaxation of intense emotions and the chemical production of all those beautiful hormones and neurotransmitters like oxytocin, serotonin and a range of endorphins – all of which contribute to having an analgesic and uplifting effect on our bodies and minds.
There's also a capability that comes with movement – and not just in a physical context either. It most certainly enhances the confidence an older adult may have to carry out everyday physical tasks, but movement also carries over to affect their psychological state of mind and emotional wellbeing too.
The ability to perform physical tasks with resilience and strength carries over to helping us feel strong and resilient in our minds too. Check out the change in someone's emotional state if they have achieved a physical feat never done before!
One of the most powerful aspects to incorporate into an older adults' exercise or movement plan is the opportunity for social connection.
Movement and physical pursuits like bowls, golf, and tennis are no different. In fact, this ticks so many boxes all at once – not only are they getting the social connection, but also the very positive emotional effects of those connections too, boosts in their energy, and all while engaging in physical tasks.
And finally, but certainly by no means least, is the factor of heightened energy that follows movement. Movement is the pump that plugs into our body's natural energy sources – I know we're taught that movement burns energy, but probably more importantly it also creates energy.
So by exercising or moving our bodies we are actually enhancing our energy, clarity and sense of vitality we feel. Further, movement is the pump for our circulatory and lymphatic systems too – this means that by moving we are helping toxins be flushed from our system, while also allowing hydration and necessary nutrients to pump to the tissues where they are required. Cool, eh!
Keeping older adults active has many a benefit. And so many of the reasons it's important for them to move correspond to the rest of the population too. What are you doing to enhance the preservation of your body? And how could you encourage an older person in your life to prioritise daily physical activity as a fixture in their life?
It really can be a case of move it or lose it. Let's keep choosing movement for as long as we all can.
■ Corinne Austin is a health coach and movement motivator (firstname.lastname@example.org).