Life Health & Wellbeing

Wednesday 12 December 2018

Older people should 'use it or lose it' and 'hold onto what you have' to slow down ageing process - GAA All Star

All Star Donnchadh Walsh is an ambassador for World Physiotherapy Day
All Star Donnchadh Walsh is an ambassador for World Physiotherapy Day
Kerry GAA star Donnchadh Walsh is the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists (ISCP) ambassador for World Physiotherapy Day
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Older people need to ‘use it or lose it’ and ‘hold onto what they have’ in order slow down the ageing process and stay mentally sharp, according to three times All Ireland football medallist and All Star Donnchadh Walsh.

The Kerry GAA star, who is the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists (ISCP) ambassador for World Physiotherapy Day, which takes place tomorrow, urged the over 55 age group to maintain social networks for the sake of their mental health as social isolation is increasingly becoming a problem in rural areas.

Trinity College academic Dr Julie Broderick has highlighted the fact that significant health benefits can be achieved from moving from the ‘very inactive’ to even ‘moving a bit more’  but of course the more active the better in terms of health gains. Being more physically active is ‘good for the head and the heart’.

The GAA star - who hails from Cromane, a tiny fishing village in Co Kerry - held a six week ‘Get Strong Live Long’ project for the over 55’s last winter which aimed to raise awareness in local communities about the importance of physical activity for healthy ageing.

The programme, focusing on strength, flexibility and the educational elements of nutrition and mental wellbeing had 20 participants per 60 minute class.

The results were significant and participants showed an improvement in physical and mental wellbeing of 8.3pc from a Quality Of Life questionnaire after the project whilst producing an increase of 10pc in flexibility and a huge 22pc increase in ‘sit to stand’ exercises.

Kerry GAA star Donnchadh Walsh is the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists (ISCP) ambassador for World Physiotherapy Day
Kerry GAA star Donnchadh Walsh is the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists (ISCP) ambassador for World Physiotherapy Day

Other notable physical improvements in the group were increased flexibility in the shoulders, hips and neck regions.  Importantly all participants expressed a marked willingness to participate in the programme again which they found hugely enjoyable due to the interactive group setting and fun aspects of the exercises and games in the programme.

Donnchadh said “Having spent most of my physiotherapy career working in the HSE in acute or community based hospitals I have had a lot of dealings especially with the older population and when dealing with them I often use the rugby term "use it or lose it".

“This is never more true of our physical abilities as we age. As a footballer if I don’t practice running, kicking, catching on a regular basis I would deteriorate in each of those areas and it becomes much harder to regain those skills as you get older.

“So my motto is if I can’t improve then "hold onto what I have" and this is very true for the older population.”

World Physiotherapy Day falls on September 8 every year, and is an opportunity for chartered physiotherapists from all over the world to raise awareness about their role in keeping people well, mobile and independent. The day was established by WCPT in 1996, and marks the date on which WCPT was founded in 1951. WCPT is the profession’s global body representing over 450,000 chartered physiotherapists from member organisations in 112 countries.

For more information please visit www.wcpt.org

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