IntroductionRegular long-term physical activity can provide lasting health benefits. People of all sizes, abilities, and shapes can acquire many benefits from just remaining physically active .Benefits of long term physical activities are not confined to health only. Being physically fit boosts self-esteem and confidence levels.
Many people have over the years associated the need for physical activity or exercise with children and the teenagers. When adults hear of physical activity, they think of gym and other strenuous activities within the gym room .However, physical exercise entails less strenuous activities such as taking a walk or cycling.
Research has shown that physical activity is a fundamental health requirement for people within all age brackets. However, these benefits vary from one stage in life to another. The nature of physical activities undertaken at each stage is also different. With the modern unhealthy life styles and nutrition, physical activity has become inevitable. Aged people need physical activities just as the young people. Health experts have described lifetime physical activity as one of the anti-aging medicine available.
For purposes of this discussion, two age groups are going to be selected an used as the basis for analysis of various aspects associated with physical activities. The age groups are children between the ages of 5 and 12 and older adults who are aged 65 and above. Some of the aspects that are going to be explored include; health benefits; risks; patterns; experiences and behaviors.
Benefits and Risks of Physical Activity
Benefits of physical activities to young people (5-12 years) are numerous. To children physical exercise is considered as any activity that enables one to have fun and feel good .However, apart from these, there are other benefits, which come along with these physical exercises (Butler 2002). Physical activities in children help them to maintain emotional well being. Young people feel relaxed and happy when they engage in physical activities such as games. Exercise also boosts self-esteem among the young. Physical activities help build a sense of belonging and self-concept.
Physical exercise enhances healthy growth and development in young people. Physical exercise is very instrumental in the growth of various muscles among the young people. Physical exercise helps young people to feel energetic. It actually encourages proper coordination of various organs in the body as well as the coordination between the brain and other parts of the body. Engaging in physical exercise promotes controlled movements and maintains healthy body weight (Butler 2002). The issue of obesity among the young currently faces most countries. Physical activities offer a big solution to the problem of obesity.
Physical activity improves mental health and development in children .Most physical activities among the young people include games that actually require a high level of concentration and focus. As a child tries to coordinate his movements, he or she improves his or her concentration skills. This is actually very beneficial for a child in future since success in education and learning largely depends on the level of concentration. Physical activities also improve the stress and anxiety management (Hastie 2003).
Physical exercise also contributes to learning and productivity. Research by the Early Childhood Development Department of Toronto University has shown that children who are active are normally extra motivated than young people who are inactive. Physical activities are directly linked to advance learning results and outcomes. Physical exercise also helps children to be better organized.
It is also a way of reducing anti social behaviors and other undesirable behaviors. There is a low probability of active children to engage in criminal activities or drug taking. Physical activities are very important in developing social behaviors among the young people. As the child engages in some form of physical activities, he or she builds his or her teamwork skills. As the child has fun, he or she get to meet other children of which they build friendships, leading to integration. Physical activities provide children with an opportunity to expand their social circles.
Engaging in physical activity is very advisable for older adults who are aged 65 and above. Unlike the benefits that result from physical activity in children, the main benefit of physical activity in older adults is the prevention of the many health related problems that come with old age. The physical activity does not actually need to be strenuous for one to achieve various health benefits. The gain of benefits of health in older adults can actually result from engagement in moderate levels of physical exercise. This is particularly more beneficial if it on a daily basis.
Examples of simple physical activities that older adults can engage in include dancing, walking, swimming, hiking, gardening, cycling and completing simple household chores.
Older people who participate in physical activities are generally more active than their counterparts or even younger people who do not take part in any kind of physical exercise or activity. Physical activity helps the older adults to lead an independent life and reduces risks of fracturing or falling bones. Physical activity reduces the occurrence of heart related illnesses like coronary heart ailments (Boreham 2001).
High blood pressure is a common occurrence in older adults but research shows that engaging in physical activity can actually alleviate the occurrence of such heath menaces. In addition, physical activity also reduces cases of diabetes and colon cancer.
Unlike children, whose bones are usually in a development phase, the bones of older adults become weaker and frail, as one gets older. Their muscles also become weaker and their general strength reduces. Participating in physical activities helps in the improvement of these health defects.
Research conducted in Australia has also shown that older adult who are in the age bracket of 65 years and above display higher functional health levels. They also exhibit reduced risks of falling. Moreover, the adults function better cognitively and they experience reduced functional and role limitations. The older adults who participate in physical activities have a more favorable biomarker profile that is capable of withstanding various bacterial and viral attacks that may deteriorate an individual’s health (Hopper and Munoz 2008).
Another benefit accrued from engaging in physical activities is that it reduces the symptoms of depression and anxiety. In addition, it fosters great improvements in the moods of the older adults and their general well being feelings. Older people normally complain of various joint pains and swellings. In most case, this results form arthritis. Participation in physical activity can actually help to control these pains or swellings.
Therefore, it is very clear to see the enormous number of health benefits that older adults can achieve if they partake in physical activity.
There are several risks associated with the participation of children in physical activities that have been established from research conducted throughout the years. The risk that however receives the largest number of headlines is that of physical injuries (Boreham 2001). Seeing that the minds of children is not fully developed, they may be carried away by the physical activities that they are engaging in and in the process, this can result in various injuries that may range from breakages to various dislocations.
In some rare case, intensive physical activities have been found to hinder the physical development of children that is in terms of physical aspects like height. Intensive physical activity in children has been found to affect them later in life (Boreham 2001). This is particularly very prevalent in athletes. The athletes who are subjected to strenuous activities form a young age are usually not able to cope with the demands of their careers by the time they are in late twenties. They are therefore forced to retire before their actually prime. An example of a sport where this is witnessed is in soccer.
According to Shephard (2003), physical activity in older adults has been associated with a variety of risks. The major risk associated with physical activity is that of bodily injury. Ad mentioned, earlier, some of the body parts of the older adults are very fragile and are therefore very prone to injuries of different kinds that nay result when engaging in physical activities. These particularly results from falls that may happen to the older adults as they engage in physical activities. Although the main aim of physical activities in older people is to improve and increase their personal physical capacity, physical overloading seriously hampers this. This is mostly due to the increasing inability of the aging body parts and systems to withstand high overloading levels. Therefore, it is quite common to see various types of injuries in the older adults over the age of 65 who participate in physical activities. Some of these injuries may persist and become long term due to the weak state of the elderly general body and immune system. This is therefore one the reasons why a medical’s practitioner’s advice is paramount before an elderly person engages in physical activities. Intense physical activities can also lead to the overloading of the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems of the individuals.
One particular aspect that exhibits itself is that the patterns of physical exercise in older adults are significantly different from those in children. Unlike children where the physical activity can be cultured early in their lives, older people who decide to engage in physical activity can find the inception stage very strenuous and some may give up (Hastie 2003). The old age demands for less intensive and strenuous physical activities for these people. The number of hours that older people can engage in physical activity is also significantly limited. This is because of the fragile nature of their body organs that can sometimes not withstand intense physical exercise.
Unlike in children where participation in physical activity is aimed at general body and bone development, in older adults, it is mainly aimed towards maintaining the tenacity tensile strength of bones that tend to deteriorate with old age (Conrad 2004).
Various studies show that the patterns of physical activity in children vary in different environmental setting. Physical activity in children can be either organized or unorganized. Organized physical activity occurs when the children are subjected to physical activities in a procedural and systematic manner. This particularly happens in a school setting. In unorganized physical activities, there is no form of organization. A lot of unpredictability therefore characterizes it and it can result to injuries since there is essentially no one to watch the well-being of the children.
The fact that physical activities provide a platform for children to interact with their counterparts is one of the major motivational factors. Some of the activities involve minimal competitions, something that further motivates the children. This means that if children between the ages of 5 and twelve are to engage in any physical activity, it should be in a place or environment where they are surrounded by their counterparts and not secluded. This will inadvertently play a huge motivational role for the children in the particular physical activity (Hopper and Munoz 2008).
Unlike in older adults, young children do not actually realize the benefits that are associated with good health and therefore, it is up to their parents to explain it to them to motivate them further. Most parents also take a point of joining their children who are taking part in various physical activities and work out alongside them, something that motivates the children further.
Research conducted by various experts clearly elaborates on the various health benefits associated with physical activities. However, persuading the older people who are over the age of 65 to take part in physical activities can prove to be a daunting task, especially here in Australia (Conrad 2004). This is because there is very little motivation among the individuals to engage in physical activities.
Those who do engage in physical activities have cited the associated health benefits as the primary motivational factor. Superior and quality health is a desire shared by people across all ages and it is therefore not strange to understand the older adults wish to share the cake (Bouchard and Haskell 2007).
Others have cited personal independence as another motivational factor. Engaging in physical activities enables the older adults to be personally independently and not be a burden tot anyone. This is because through physical exercises, their general body strength is improved and is therefore to perform personal activities or chores that inactive people of the same age would not be able to do.
Once again, it is clear to see the distinction between the motivational factors in children and those in adults.
Research actually shows that the older adults who have active lifestyles often have the same health quality as individuals who are 15 years old and who are generally not active. Therefore, one of the bets ways for older people to maintain a healthy body is through physical exercise.
Most people who are over the age of 65 years think that they are too old or too weak to engage in any kind of physical activity.. Others think that children are too young to be subjected to physical exercises. This is a very misguided notion that should be abandoned notion seeing that it is very inaccurate. No is too old, too weak, or too young to exercise physically. Physical activity is no way limited by age. In addition, the benefits from physical activities and exercise far outweigh the risks associated.
With this in mind, it becomes relatively easy to compare and contrast various physical activity aspects in children and older adults. Although there are some clear-cut differences in the patterns, motivations and risks associated of physical in these two distinct age groups, there are also some similarities in some of these aspects. The message that however comes out clearly is that engagement in physical has overall health benefits to participants across all age groups and generations.
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Conrad, P. C. (2004). The effect of participating in a fitness and lifetime skills program on attitude toward physical activity. Sydney, Australia: Capitol Publishers.
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