Exercise and physical activity can help you stay healthy and energetic. And it becomes even more important to remain active as you get older, helping you maintain your independence and improve the quality of your life.

Despite research showing that the number of older adults who are getting up and getting active has been increasing over the last 10 years, elderly people still make up the most sedentary age group, with six out of 10 older adults classed as inactive.

This has major repercussions for their health – with high rates of obesity, heart disease and falls prevalent among our elderly community.

If you don't stay active, all the things you’ve always enjoyed doing may start to become that little bit harder. You may struggle to pursue simple pleasures, such as going to the shops, playing with the grandchildren, leisure activities and meeting up with friends.

You might start to get aches and pains that you never experienced before, and have less energy to go out. This can all lead to being less able to look after yourself and lead the life you are used to.

There's strong evidence that people who are active have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, depression and dementia.

If you want to stay pain-free, reduce your risk of mental illness, and be able to go out and stay independent well into old age, you are advised to keep moving. It’s that simple.

Benefits of exercise: the facts

  • Physical activity can add years to your life
  • Physical activity improves quality of your life
  • Maintains healthy weight
  • Manages stress
  • Improves quality of sleep
  • Helps reduce your risk of falls
  • Makes you feel great!

‘I pretty much spent my whole adult life in a car, in a chair at the office, or on a couch – being active was for other, more energetic and possibly slightly annoying people.  I was also very overweight, so even the thought of trying to get into any sort of stretchy clothing and move around in front of people was pretty scary - and even to my slight shame I really never did anything much to get out and run around with my son when he was small.  In my mid 30s I sort of got it together weightwise, and on the advice of the Weight Watchers lady, I just started to walk 30 minutes a day.  It sounds very little – but it was amazing how much of a difference it made to how I felt, and how much it helped me to lose weight. It’s hard to explain how starting to be even a little bit active changes you very quickly, even though it’s really hard at the beginning, and you often have to force yourself – really force yourself!  It’s hard when even the little bit you are doing makes you break out in a sweat. It’s hard when you make the HUGE mistake of comparing yourself to others. It’s very hard if you, like I did, spend too much time telling yourself that you’re ‘very unfit’ and ‘this isn’t making any difference’.  But then - your body makes progress remarkably fast – because I think really, deep down, our bodies want to move. We are born wriggly, and you can’t stop most little kids from running around.  Despite having sat on the sidelines for pretty much all my life, feeling pretty awful about how I looked and how unfit I was, just walking for 30 minutes a day changed how I feel forever. I am now very proud of being a pretty active person – even though I am still not a skinny one! I now cycle to work and home again every day, so the exercise doubles as transport, it’s a feeling of freedom from traffic, from stale air in the car – I get to see the city close up, I feel clearer headed, and it also makes a huge difference to my mood and how I react to the normal ups and down of the week. I still don’t look great in stretchy clothes but nothing dents the happiness and even confidence you can create from minding yourself and letting your body do what it wants – deep, deep down underneath the sofa cushions.’

Fidelma, Limerick.