Being polite to the elderly is bad for their health; they need to stand up, walk further, carry their own packages, expert claims

Are you doing senior citizens more harm than good by offering them your seat on the bus? According to one Oxford professor, you most definitely are. Instead of giving a seat to the elderly, you should be encouraging them to stand up and become more physically active, claimed Sir Muir Gray, clinical adviser to Public Health England.

We need to be encouraging activity as we age — not telling people to put their feet up,” said Gray. He further stated that senior citizens need to “play their part” and “understand their role” in remaining healthy and physically fit.

Gray added: “Don’t get a stair lift for your aging parents, put in a second banister. And think twice before giving up your seat on the bus or train to an older person. Standing up is great exercise for them.” Other options include urging senior citizens to take the stairs in lieu of elevators or escalators, and having them carry their own bags as they walk about. (Related: Exercise Improves Health of Elderly with Dementia.)

Scarlett O’Mally, consultant orthopedic surgeon at Eastbourne District General Hospital, echoed Gray’s sentiments. As the lead author on a study about the rising numbers of elderly persons requiring care, O’Mally has gone on to state that old age shouldn’t be viewed as the period to “take it easy.”

“We need to challenge the idea that old people should rest. People need to keep active however old they are,” she said. “They need to increase activity. Every adult should do a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week and twice weekly strength and balance training.”

While there’s nothing wrong with promoting a healthier lifestyle among the elderly, you run the risk of depressing them with your rudeness if you refuse to give up your seat or help them carry their bags. After all, no one wants to be treated coldly, regardless of their age. We suggest offering up your seat or your assistance regardless. If they accept either, then let them do as they please; if they refuse, then don’t insist. Through this, you can do your part for them without making them feel bad about themselves.

For their part, there are a number of exercises the above-65s can perform to stay in good physical condition. These are just some of them, as recommended by the National Health Service (NHS):

  • A good 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (such as walking or cycling) every week, and strength exercises that work out all the major muscles (specifically, the arms, shoulders, chest, back, legs, and hips) on at least two days of the week.
  • At least 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity (like running or tennis) a week, and two or more days with strength exercises.
  • A mix of both moderate and vigorous aerobic activity each week. This can consist of two 30-minute running sessions and an additional 30 minutes of brisk walking. As with all other suggestions, strength exercises on two more days are needed to complement the aerobic activity.

You can take your routine to the next level with flexibility and balance exercises. Flexibility exercises are basically stretches that you do on at least two days of the week for 10 minutes, with a special focus on your neck, shoulders, wrists, hips, and knees. Balance exercises, on the other hand, can be done as often as you like as long as you perform them to maintain your stability and balance.

If all of this sounds a bit much, you can easily break it down further. Instead of opting to do your daily 30 minutes of aerobic exercise straight away, divide it into 10- or 15-minute chunks that you can do thrice or twice a day. Doing this is way less exhausting and makes exercise feel like less of a chore. Find a friend to exercise with to hold yourself more accountable and make it more fun.

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