“The way of the future is prevention – we can’t be always picking up the pieces. When people can make lifestyle changes that will help reduce these illnesses.” – Marion Adeney-Steel, Clinical Lead Physiotherapist at Remedy Healthcare.
I was of the opinion that I was too old to take up this gym business but, actually, it’s been quite rewarding,” says John Las Gourgues. John took up “this gym business” a couple of years ago, aged 86.
But then, he had played tennis until he was 83 and was still playing hockey in his 70s. “I played a lot of sport over the years – cricket and squash. In fact, almost every sport and it’s helped keep me pretty fit,” John says.
John is a reminder of the value of regular exercise and that continuing to move can help maintain good health. The resident of Australian Unity’s Drummond Place Retirement Community in Carlton, in inner Melbourne goes to the gym twice a week. He enjoys classes supervised by a physiotherapist at Remedy Healthcare, at Rathdowne Place, part of Australian Unity’s Retirement Community, also in Carlton.
“I noticed my legs had lost some strength – and maybe my balance wasn’t quite so good – but gym has improved that enormously and also put my core strength up a bit.”
Core strength maintains good balance and strong bones and is essential as we age, and exercise is the way to achieve it.
Of course, not everyone has John’s background in sport and many can find it hard to get started.
Marion Adeney-Steel, Clinical Lead Physiotherapist at Remedy Healthcare, says: “There’s every barrier known to man why people can’t exercise: ‘I’m too old, I’m too fat, I’m too busy, I’ve never exercised …’
“Pain is a genuine excuse,” she says. “But even then, it’s about finding the right type of exercise. You can exercise safely at any age or ability just with a little guidance and not doing too much too quickly.
“Particularly as people get older, the chance of heart disease, stroke, even cancer, can all be reduced by taking up regular exercise.”
Exercise is also a preventative when managing many chronic conditions. Arthritis, for example, is about management rather than cure.
“You can put off or avoid joint replacement by using various components of physiotherapy,” Marion says. “One of the main therapies we use at Remedy is hydrotherapy. Water enables people to exercise their muscles really strongly without the pressure and impact through the joint.”
Exercise, specifically strength-training exercise, can also help prevent and manage diabetes. “Strong muscular contraction uses blood sugar very efficiently so if you get your muscles working really hard, your blood sugar will be better controlled. It can also improve the use of insulin in the body.”
Another benefit is that if you are exercising regularly you will be losing some weight, which is useful for all chronic conditions, not only diabetes.
Osteoporosis, in which bones become brittle and weak due to low bone density or thickness, affects more than one million Australians. Exercise can improve bone health.
“You need weight-bearing exercise and resistance training. The body needs to be challenged and you need to progress your program regularly,” Marion says. “This is where a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist can really help to get you on the right track and exercising safely.”
Help and guidance are available, but Marion believes it’s important for people to take responsibility for their own health.
“The way of the future is prevention – we can’t be always picking up the pieces. When people can make lifestyle changes that will help reduce these illnesses.”
Words: Margaret Barca