Tag Archives: swimming

Physical activity and older Europeans

It turns out that the frequency of physical activity amongst Europeans tends to decrease with age. The 2014 Eurobarometer survey on Sport and Physical Activity indicated that a majority of 15-24 year olds (64%) exercise or play sport at least once a week. However, this number drops to a disturbing 30% for the 55+ age group.

While this disparity may seem to make sense – as we do tend to associate physical activity with younger people – this is in fact a major problem. By 2020, a quarter of Europeans will be over 60 years of age. This will have a significant impact on our health and health care systems as well as on our economy and communities. That is why it is so important to support active and healthy ageing.

Physical activity is extremely important for older adults. In addition to the many benefits we’ve already discussed, it:

  • Improves immune function, stamina, muscle strength and balance;
  • Reduces falls and injuries, helps maintain the ability to live independently;
  • Helps reduce the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes and other illnesses; and
  • Helps control joint swelling and pain associated with arthritis.

According to the WHO – older adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week. That’s not much, and the benefits are well worth the effort. It’s never too late to start, but be sure to check with your doctor before venturing into a new activity.

Remember, active time can be social time – so track down a physical activity program in your community – one that offers aerobic, strengthening and flexibility components, or form a walking group with your friends. Get into gardening, or take up swimming or Tai Chi.

The options are endless – be creative, #BeActive.

 

Meet the #BeActive Team: Kari

I used to be a runner- the kind who runs not for health or weight loss but for fun. There  were running holidays and running friends, tough races in the mountains and long beautiful runs along hiking trails.

Then, suddenly in April 2012, I became someone with a slipped disc. When I left the hospital I couldn’t walk unassisted and the doctors told me I would never run again (they were wrong but that is another story). They also told me that the only sport I would be able to practice was freestyle swimming. At the time I could only swim breaststroke and didn’t even enjoy it that much, but I was determined to make the most out of it – not only would I learn to swim freestyle, I would also turn swimming into the kind of fun adventure that running used to be for me.

It was fairly obvious that pool swimming was not going to do the trick.

Sure, the first 100 meters of freestyle felt like an amazing achievement and I was thrilled the first time I actually caught up with the person in front of me in the lane (regardless of the fact that this someone was doing heads-up breaststroke and had distinctive white curls). But this was not what I wanted to do, this was not why I had learnt to swim.

I set about to look for my swimming adventure and quickly realised that there is one stretch of water that really stands out when it comes to swimming challenges, one swim that is more epic, more mythical than any other swim: the English Channel.

More people have climbed Mount Everest than have completed a Channel solo swim. It takes years to prepare for a challenge of this size and it was clearly beyond my reach.

Instead, I settled on doing a more manageable chunk of the Channel by registering for an international Channel relay team. There are six of us and we will take turns to swim an hour at a time. The past 12 months have been filled with pool sessions, Skype phone calls and a never-ending hunt for suitable lakes, rivers or beaches for open water training.

My swim is scheduled for 24 June and I am terrified.

The temperature in the Channel is currently a bone-chilling 13 degrees, cold enough to make your teeth hurt. Despite training for a whole year, I have not managed to fit in a single session of swimming in big waves. I am afraid of fish.  It is the world’s busiest shipping lane.

But it is ok to be terrified, if it was easy it wouldn’t be an adventure.

Kari is a Swedish national and has worked for the European Commission for more than three years. As the Social Media Team Leader in the Youth and Sport Directorate of the Commission’s Directorate-General for Education and Culture, Kari is responsible for the digital and social media aspects of the #BeActive campaign.

Would you like to know how Kari’s adventure evolves? Follow the European Commission’s Erasmus+ Facebook account for updates on her progress.