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The benefits of outdoor exercise for older people and how it enhances mental health

The benefits of physical activity for older people have been well documented. According to the NHS, adults aged 65 and over should do some form of exercise daily, to improve their health and reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease.

older people using seated leg press at fresh air fitness outdoor gym.

15th April 2024

The NHS also recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of weekly moderately intensive activity, or 75 of vigorous-intensity exercise for those who are already active – or a combination of both. And you should do activities which boost strength, flexibility and balance on at least 2 days per week. (Talk to your GP before starting any programme of exercise.)

It’s also important to reduce how much time you spend lying down, and to break up extended periods of inactivity by moving around. 

Exercise can help you stay living independently for longer. Flexibility, bone density and strength also improve, plus you’re less likely to have a fall. 

Then there are the benefits for your mental health as well. Being physically active can assist with your cognitive functioning and the advantages don’t stop there. 


The social benefits of exercise

Loneliness can affect anyone at any stage of their life. But, as we age, we can potentially become more vulnerable to social isolation, for various different reasons. This can take a significant toll on our health. 

According to Age UK, 1.5 million older people in the UK report being frequently lonely, with over two million aged 75 or older living alone and a million saying they often go longer than a month without speaking to a neighbour, friend or relative. 

An outdoor gym can help combat the problem. It’s a great place to meet a new support network of friends and contacts and enjoy human interaction. You could arrange to meet a friend at the gym and work out together, so that you’re socialising while also reaping the physical health rewards of exercising. 

Meanwhile, some outdoor gyms offer group classes aimed at different age groups, so you can follow a session with others. 


How outdoor gym equipment can help

Fresh Air Fitness is an award-winning provider of outdoor gym equipment, supplying councils, care homes and parks. Some of the outdoor gyms fitted with our machines have meet-ups and trainer-led sessions which can help you to meet like-minded people, preventing loneliness. 

A case in point is the Rainbow Trail Outdoor Gym Project. We helped the Leicestershire-based Inspire2tri Community Interest Company fit an outdoor gym offering accessible exercise and rehabilitation facilities to older and more vulnerable people in their local park.  Providing long-lasting, user-friendly solutions which would have year-round availability. 

What we created suited varying mobility levels, with some options for seated workouts, plus we supplied clear, accessible instructions. Our facility included recumbent and arm-and-pedal bikes, a cross-country skier, combi pull-down chest press and seated leg press, alongside an upright rower (the ‘Rider’). Finally, the Twist & Step allows user to do supported step or rotational exercises supported by a bar, improving flexibility, core strength and cardio fitness. 

We’re very aware of the importance of exercise and social interaction for older people. So we design our equipment with this and a range of abilities in mind. Talk to us today about what an outdoor gym could do for older members of you community, whether you’re a local authority, care home or other organisation. Often, we can help discuss sources of funding for your outdoor gym, as well. 

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