Felix Adena, 85, keeps fit by walking and exercising every day.
Felix Adena, 85, keeps fit by walking and exercising every day. Warren Lynam

Use it or lose it

FELIX Adena has found the secret to eternal youth.

The 85-year-old Buderim man has lived by the mantra "use it or lose it" and found physical activity to be the best medicine.

Mr Adena walks 2km every day, along with stretching, deep breathing exercises and gardening.

He also has weekly hydrotherapy treatments with a physiotherapist and regular checks at the chiropractor to make sure his body is aligned.

"I have these routines, they're simple and require a bit of determination and willpower," he said.

"I feel certain that this is the key to life extension, so many people I meet at my age and younger say, 'The old body's cracking up again'. They're taking all these pills, but the best thing they can do is get their body active.

"I'm a firm believer that we're all given the body to be used, you don't use it when you're sitting around.

"Your body needs regular exercise to stay in good condition. If you don't exercise, your body will start to fall apart."

Mr Adena said people over 65 "kid themselves into thinking they get enough exercise, but they never do".

"They might get out in the garden, but the thing is what they might be doing is wandering about admiring the shrubs and doing a bit of pruning, not digging a whole garden bed," he said.

Mr Adena had always been very active in his work - gardening and landscaping, but said it wasn't until he was about 60 that he realised health was his most valuable asset.

"That's why I've got this very strong outlook. No matter how long I last, I want to keep as fit as I can until the very end," he said.

"But it all comes down to the individual, the individual has to make a firm decision to put their body in good shape.

"If you're an office worker, take the stairs, don't go up in the lift. If you live within walking distance to the shops, walk down there and back, it'll be much better for you in the future.

"It's a shame, people always want to take the easy option."

Sunshine Coast chiropractor and Chiropractors' Association of Australia (Queensland) spokesman Dr Alistair Lavery said the advice to "move it, or lose it" really did apply as we grew older.

"Research has linked physical inactivity in older people with declines in mobility and balance and an increased risk of falling," Dr Lavery said.

A recent study published in the Australian Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport showed almost one-third of Australians over 65 were doing no exercise at all, and Australian Institute of Health and Welfare figures showed each year about 30% of people over 65 experienced a fall, with 10% of these falls leading to injury.

Dr Lavery said spinal health was also an important foundation for keeping in check the problems that could arise with aging in our balance, coordination and mobility.

"As we age, spinal discs, joints, ligaments and muscles become weaker and not able to stand up to normal stresses and strains, and so pain and injury can occur," he said.

"If you get spinal and joint-related problems and pain then your mobility can be affected, and it can lead to a downward spiral in health.

"About two-thirds of Australians over 65 report that they have musculoskeletal conditions, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

"Chiropractors work with many older patients, using gentle techniques and advising on stretching and exercise programs to relieve spinal pressure and pain, increase range of motion to improve balance, coordination, flexibility and mobility."

Dr Lavery said before starting any new activity seniors should consult a medical professional.

Tips for gentle exercises to do at home, with appropriate safeguards in place, include:

For balance: Stand on one leg; stand up on toes, then lower back down again; walk in a line placing one foot directly in front of the other, heel-to-toe.

For flexibility: While watching TV, try arm raises and stretches, rolling shoulders, flexing toes and ankles, raising knees up and down.


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