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Just as important as physical health is mental health in older adults. Our mental health affects how we think, feel, and cope with life’s ups and downs. What’s important to recognise is the fact that as we move through life and our circumstances change in older age, our mental health can change, too.

It’s crucial that we are proactive in our efforts to delay the onset of mental health issues in later life. In a recent interview for the New York Times – quoted in The TelegraphLisa Feldman Barrett, Research Professor at Boston College, suggested that older people should challenge themselves to learn and try new things on a regular basis in order to keep the brain ticking and active.

Importantly, however, whatever these “things” may be – learning chess, a new sport, a new language, or what have you – it’s crucial that you find it enjoyable, as this will make it more likely that you keep working hard at it, and thereby not become frustrated and simply give up. This is backed up by separate research from the University of Illinois, which shows that subjective wellbeing – that is, feeling satisfied with your life and experiencing few negative emotions – is associated with better health and longer life.

Other studies show that regular exercise can reverse mental decline in the over-60s. Diabetes.co.uk draws attention to a work done by the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center research team in Boston, which suggests that doing 52 hours of exercise over a six-month period – which works out at about half-an-hour of activity three times a week – can improve concentration and problem-solving. The results were also consistent in those who had dementia.

Lead author of the study Dr Joyce Gomes-Osman said: “Processing speed and executive function are among the first to go when you’re ageing. This is evidence that you can literally turn back the clock on ageing by maintaining a regular exercise regime.”

Joining a group exercise class can be a great way to start getting active, and in turn start enjoying all the other wonderful mental health benefits that come by being engaged in an active and welcoming community of like-minded people. In fact, studies have shown that exercising as part of a group is better for your physical, emotional and mental health that going it alone.

(Video source: youtube.com)

The Keep Fit Association – one of EMD UK’s founding organisations – is dedicated to giving people across the generations the opportunity to meet in a spirit of fun and take part in exercise to music. The KFA has successfully changed the lives of many people by introducing them to fitness through exercise, movement and dance, helping them become more energetic, healthier, happier, and with an improved sense of mental wellbeing that comes as part of developing friendships and support networks while exercising in a group.

Our other founding organisations – Medau and FLexercise – also offer similar opportunities, and all have programmes geared towards people in later life, helping people of all ages enjoy better physical, emotional and mental health.

For more information on staying healthy in older age, get in touch with EMD UK today, your national governing body for group exercise.

To find out how FLexercise, Medau and KFA could support your physical and mental well being, click on the pictures below.

For more information on health and wellbeing for older adults, click on the links below

Active Ageing

Remaining in good health physically, mentally, and emotionally is what defines well-being and happiness for us all, at any age – including later life. At EMD UK, we understand that your health is your wealth – especially as we get older.

Exercise

There is nothing more satisfying than the feel-good factor we experience after a good work out. As we get older, that work out can take many forms of physical movement – from a spot of gardening, through to taking part in sports and group exercise classes. It is also important to understand how our fitness requirements should change in line with our lifestyles and our bodies.

Nutrition

Did you know life expectancy has doubled in the UK over the past 200 years? Of course, there are many contributing factors for this increase in life expectancy, including our own understanding of our nutritional needs. As we age these needs change. Our bodies require the right balance of nutrients to function at its best. Taking the time to understand what your body needs can lead to a happier, healthier lifestyle and life.

Making friends and staying connected

If we are to believe what we read in the press, we can conclude loneliness and isolation is an epidemic which has a widespread impact across our society. Regardless of age, it is important to stay connected, meet new people and get involved with our communities.  The older we get, the harder this can sometimes be but there are many ways you can avoid the feeling of loneliness, including special interest groups and local group exercise classes.