Physical exercise – The corner stone for everyone’s health

Author: Eva Rönkkö

In Finland we have got used to the fact that exercise is one of the most important elements building one’s healthy life. For the health related quality of life physical exercise is even more important in the older age than for the younger people. 

There are a lot of studies to prove that physical training increases over all health, supports living at home longer and prevents the risk of falling down and injuring yourself. For the elderly in Finland, nordic walking, gymnastics, going to the gym and exercising in the water and in the nature are quite common ways of taking care of one’s health.

The situation is different when we look at the wellbeing of ageing immigrants. According to the research done by the National Institute for Health and Wellfare in Finland the Somalis and Kurds are usually more over-weight than the elderly native Finns. There occurs more diabetes, high blood pressure and other illnesses amongst these ageing immigrant groups. Comparing to the native population also the exercise tests show lower results; walking pace is slower, it’s harder to climb the stairs and it’s more difficult to get dressed etc. An exception are the migrants from the former Soviet Union who have used to exercising for health already in the country of origin.

I have asked the hosts of the field visits in the ENIEC meetings, how they support the physical health of ageing migrants. ”They are not used to do exercise” has been the answer I’ve got for several times. In my experience the situation is quite the same in Finland, but we should not stop there. In Finland we have worked together with multiple projects and organizations to change the understanding for the meaning of physical exercise in healthy life. We need to change the attitudes towards exercise and through that support the activity of ageing migrants. Together with the Finnish ENIEC team we have organized wellbeing activities for the elderly migrant groups such as gym for the men, gymnastics for the women, walking in the nature, fishing, camps etc. It is not easy to support the elderly to commit to the weekly exercising activities. The motivation to exercise regularly comes from the realization of the benefits of exercising to better health.

The Finnish sports professionals do not fully understand the needs of elderly migrants. There are no culture sensitive exercising activities for the elderly nor is there appropriate exercise material (eg. pictures of gymnastic moves with all of the diversity of the Finnish elderly). Last year we produced material called “Collection of Resistance Band Exercises”. We wanted to send a message to the professionals in sports that there are multiple backgrounds in the elderly in Finland.  The exercise material has been translated into English, Somalian, Russian and Arabic (coming soon).  You can print the material from our website and use it in your own groups.

Upload the material here (roll down to “Kuminauhalla voimaa”)

Eva Rönkkö, Eläkeläiset ry


Physical exercise – The corner stone for everyone’s health


Eva Rönkkö












Elderly migrants


NL May 2016 – n° 78


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