Active+, one of New Zealand’s largest multi-disciplinary rehabilitation suppliers, is busting the myth that retirement
is all about putting your feet up and taking it easy. Instead, the health and wellness brand is calling for older Kiwis
to get more active – not less – if they want to enjoy the benefits of a long, fun-filled retirement.
By 2051, there will be 1.18 million people aged 65 and over in New Zealand, a leap of 165% since 1999. At that stage,
older people are expected to make up 26% of the New Zealand population. Some sources
estimate that healthcare costs will have increased by almost 100% by 2030.
“Our population is ageing fast, with a proliferation of health problems. It has long been assumed such problems were
directly caused by ageing, and could, therefore, be neither prevented nor treated,” says Kath Broad, an Active+
Physiotherapist, and Clinic Director at Active+ Dominion Road.
“However, numerous studies have shown that ageing by itself is not a cause of major health problems until people are in
their mid-90s. In fact, the problems we’ve ascribed to ageing are due to disease – much of it preventable – such as loss
of fitness and negative attitudes to growing older.”
Active+ has recognised this, and developed a number of services, which can be either ACC or privately funded, to enable
older Kiwis to maintain their health and fitness. These include Pilates and yoga classes, physiotherapy, dietitian
consultations, counselling and personal training.
“Joining a group exercise class at a physio clinic is well worth considering,” says Kath. “These are different to
general community based ones because they are led by physiotherapists. Physios are able to recognise and diagnose many
movement difficulties and are the best qualified for adapting exercises to suit all abilities. They’re a great choice if
you’re getting older and unsure about how to boost your activity and fitness levels.”
“A lot of people have never been to a gym, and don’t want to go or are afraid that they may hurt themselves. This is
where exercise classes can be useful. The environment is more targeted to people who may not be as physically capable,
or simply need some additional support.”
As well as the obvious fitness benefits, Kath points out that physio led exercises can reduce the risk of falls, which
can result in older adults incurring serious injuries – even leading to hospitalisation.
“Numerous studies have shown that working on strength and balance can reduce the risk of falls,” she says. “Physios are
able to detect early difficulties with movement, strength and balance, and prescribe exercises to assist. This could be
easy home exercises, such as calf raises and one-leg stands – or muscle strengthening routines, like lifting light
weights and doing yoga.”
The loss of function and resilience associated with ageing can often be influenced by activity: physical, mental and
social. The team at Active+ suggest working through the following checklist to boost activity levels.Find an exercise that you enjoy. Whether it’s swimming, walking, Pilates, or a kick-about with the grandkids in the park, look for activities that you
love and look forward to doing on a regular basis.Set realistic goals. Build up gradually so you don’t push yourself too hard and get discouraged. You could start by doing some light
stretching while you watch TV or get off the bus one stop earlier and walk the rest of the way.Do it regularly. Aim to do something every day and ideally 2.5 hours of moderate activity over a week.Get support by exercising with friends. Join an exercise class or talk a friend into going for a walk or a bike ride with you. Your motivation and your body
will thank you.Improve your flexibility. Stretching, Pilates, yoga and bowls can all help you stay supple. That will help you carry on doing things like washing
your hair, getting dressed, and even tying your shoelaces.Get strong. Muscle strengthening exercises help to make everyday activities much easier, such as opening jars, getting up from
chairs or lifting objects. Try to do muscle-strengthening activities twice a week, such as using free weights, heavy
gardening or activities that involve stepping and jumping.Try a balancing act. Make sure to add balance activities to the daily routine. Good balance requires maintaining a center of gravity over
the base of support. Tai chi, yoga, walking on challenging surfaces and water exercises all enhance overall balance.Prevent injury by warming up. Before you start, it’s important to warm up. Wear loose, comfortable clothing, drink plenty of water and cool down
afterwards.Use goals and rewards. Use goals and rewards to keep yourself motivated. Perhaps you want to work your way up to walking a certain distance or
completing a certain number of reps. Adjust your goals as you pass milestones. A reward might include something as
simple as a bubble bath or a relaxing evening watching your favourite TV show.Stick with it. It takes about a month to create a habit – and don’t be too hard on yourself if you skip a few sessions. Just start
over and build up the habit again!
There is a perception that that ill-health and sedentary behaviour are a natural part of growing older, but that doesn’t
have to be the case,” says Kath. “It’s important to support older Kiwis to maintain an active lifestyle, so they can
live healthy and independent lives, well into their retirements.
“At Active+, we are continually examining how we can better support seniors with their health and fitness, and look
forward to introducing more services in the future.”
It is important to seek advice before starting a new health and fitness regime. Always talk to your doctor about the
types and amounts of physical activity that are right for you.
For more information on Active+, visit activeplus.co.nz