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According to research conducted and culminated by Gabrielle Kelly, Lindeka Mrengqwa and Leon Geffen, it had shown that the “healthcare system in Cape Town (and likely the rest of the country) underserves the older persons”. Their studies showed that the elderly population struggle to find appropriate healthcare provided in “private or NGO-public sector arrangements”. The lack of appropriate healthcare for the elderly was shown to be, according to further studies, because Africa has the “highest proportion of elderly people in its population”. According to the Department of South African Statistics, they confirmed that the South African elderly population is estimated to be around 4.6 million people over the age of 60.


However, these particular issues seem to be one-sided. The healthcare system is continuously improving its standards, but there are ways in which the elderly can improve their health without relying on slowly improving the healthcare system. As much as it is a healthcare issue, it is also a lifestyle issue.

In this case, fitness is a significant tool to combat and slow down the degeneration of elderly health. In a special issue of BioMed Research International¸, they claimed that physical activity, and exercise play “plays an important role in the primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention, in the management of diseases”. Considering their claim, below is a list of illnesses that physical activity and exercise can help combat in the elderly population.


According to John Hopkins Arthritis Centre, regular activity helps lubricate the joints and reduces overall pain. Centre of Disease and Control and Prevention notes that obesity can also be a risk factor of arthritis, and increasing physical activity can help alleviate the symptoms of arthritis.

Heart Disease

Heart disease is a common illness among the elderly, and according to Mayo Clinic, exercise helps manage blood pressure and blood glucose. It helps with blood flow, keeping blood pressure under control.

Type II Diabetes and Obesity

The American Diabetes Association notes that exercise can help maintain proper body weight and help regulate blood glucose and insulin levels to make the body more efficient.


The National Cancer Institute claims that moderate to regular exercise has been shown to help improve overall cancer risk amongst a variety of different forms of cancer.


A study done by the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health found that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%. The improvement in depressive symptoms can help maintain overall great vitality.


According to the National Institute of Ageing¸, every adult should exercise to help lower the risk of mental decline and to help prevent mental disability later in life.


The SleepFoundation claims that physical activity can help exhaust the body enough to place it in a position for restful and lasting sleep.

All-cause Mortality

According to an article from the Canadian Medical Association Journal, exercise reduces death from all causes and can help delay premature death from various causes.


Among the research regarding exercise, it shows and proves to be a useful outlet to help longevity. The elderly population must become active to help live longer lives without pain and suffering. There are many ways to stay fit that suits individual circumstances. Walking to the park, working in the garden, or volunteering may help stay active. Along with staying active, the elderly should ensure regular health screenings, to allow preventative measures to be taken if necessary.