‘There’s no lycra or mirrors here’ – insights from Lauretta Stace, Uniting Healthy Ageing General Manager

Strength and balance training has many health benefits as you grow older

‘There’s no lycra or mirrors here’ – insights from Lauretta Stace, Uniting Healthy Ageing General Manager

Today, for the first time in history, most people can expect to live into their 60s and beyond. This is great news, and not just for individuals, because all of society benefits from these years of knowledge and wisdom. But if we are going to make the most of our longer lives it’s important to stay healthy.

According to the World Health Organization, most of the health problems of older age are the result of chronic diseases, many of which can be prevented or delayed by healthy living. While most of us know that regular physical activity and good nutrition are the cornerstones of good health, there are some specific things we should be focusing on as we get older.

We asked Lauretta Stace, Healthy Ageing General Manager for Uniting, to share some insights on adding health to years.

In high income countries such as Australia, the most common causes of years of healthy life lost to disability in people older than 60 years include sensory impairments, such as neck and back pain, as well as falls, dementia and diabetes. Depression and anxiety disorders are also prevalent.

Let’s take a closer look at the two big factors that can help to prevent, delay or manage these conditions: physical activity and nutrition.

Tip #1: Muscle up

As we age it’s important to place an emphasis on strength and balance training.

Progressive resistance training has favourable effects on muscular strength, physical capacity, falls prevention, cardiovascular function and metabolism. Members of our Uniting Seniors Gyms are living testaments to this. By focusing on their strength and balance at regular gym sessions each week, we have seen marked improvements in our clients’ overall strength and functional ability. One participant said that after a big storm recently she realised she was now better at raking up branches and leaves than her husband.

Don’t worry if the idea of joining a gym sounds daunting – we promise there’s no lycra and mirrors here. It’s a bunch of like-minded seniors in everyday clothes doing some supervised exercise and having a laugh together.

We remember this mantra, stay strong, stay steady, stay safe.

Of course, all of the domains of fitness – aerobic, as well as strength and balance – are helpful for older people, because physical activity has multiple physical and mental benefits including maintaining muscle strength and cognitive function, reducing anxiety, preventing and reducing the risk of chronic disease and improving social connection.

Tip #2: Eat for strength

Nutrition plays a vital role in healthy ageing, so it’s important to know what fuel your body needs. Although energy needs decrease with age, the need for most nutrients remains relatively unchanged. As we’re focusing on muscle and bone strength in this article, it’s important to understand there are strong links between poor nutrition and reduced muscle and bone mass, which can lead to disability and frailty.

While you are busy building strong muscles and bones through progressive resistance exercise, take the time to get some professional advice about how your diet can improve your muscle and bone health as well. That way, you’ll get the best of both worlds and add health to years.

The good news is that it’s never too late to start!

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