How can I exercise as I get older?
As we get older, it is especially important to take part in some regular exercise. To help you towards the weekly activity guidelines of 2.5 hours, this blog offers a few tips:
- Do something you are familiar with
- Keep to short workouts
- Take everyday activities up a notch
- Try an over 50s exercise class (if you like!)
- Get your family involved.
Let's look at these tips in a bit more detail and find out why exercise is so important for older adults.
1. Do something you’re familiar with
Think about the activities you have enjoyed in the past. Did you like riding your bike as a child, or were you part of the rowing club as a student? Taking up an activity you are already familiar with can be easier than starting something from scratch.
That being said, if you want to try something completely new (volleyball, aqua aerobics, competitive frisbee, for example...) then go ahead! Learning new skills is a great way to keep the mind and body active as you get older.
2. Keep to short workouts
There seems to be a misconception amongst many adults that exercise has to get you sweating and out of breath. Whilst cardiovascular activities are important, if you aren't used to doing a lot of exercise, adding any kind of movement to your daily life is a positive step.
So, even if you walk 10 minutes more, carry your shopping bags to your car instead of putting them in a trolley, or walk up the stairs in your house a few times in the morning and at night, it can all add up!
3. Take everyday activities up a notch
An activity like walking is something we do throughout our daily lives. To take this one step further, plan short hilly routes, increase your speed or join a club where you can get out and explore new places.
Walking clubs, including walking rugby/football/basketball, as well as Nordic walking, are also on the rise. The latter offers a whole-body workout but, with the help of ski-like poles that push the body along, it is not over-strenuous on the muscles or joints.
If you don't want to join a club on your own, arrange for a friend, family member or colleague to join you for a taster session. This will enable you to try an activity out, without making any big commitments or stepping too far out of your comfort zone.
4. Try an over 50s exercise class
Whilst many exercise classes, such as 'Legs, Bums and Tums' or 'Spin', cater to all ages, classes targeted at the over 50s are also on the rise. These offer space to exercise with people of a similar ability and age.
Although some will not feel the need to join an exercise group with people their own age, for others it can be encouraging.
Check out what exercise classes are available in your area and take your pick from the likes of:
- Aquafit – water-based exercises that get your heart rate up and help tone muscles.
- Adult swimming lessons – suitable for beginners, as well as those looking to improve their technique.
- Fitness camp – this can include circuits and sessions on exercise bikes.
- Pilates – helps strengthen, stretch and tone muscles.
- Tai Chi – involves a mix of relaxation, balance and mental concentration.
- Yoga – excellent for relaxation, as well as toning and strengthening muscles.
- Line dancing – this is a fun way to stay active, as well as allowing you to meet new people. Dances are choreographed to upbeat music so it can be a lot of fun.
5. Get your family involved
Swingball in the garden, a kick-about in the park, or trampolining in a local gym are all good ways to get moving with the family. Alternatively, many playparks now have outdoor adult gyms attached to them so you can get moving whilst the youngsters play.
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The importance of exercising as you get older
Research published last summer showed that increased activity in middle age and beyond may decrease the risk of death from all causes, including cardiovascular disease (CVD).2
The participants in this research were middle-aged and benefited from increased physical activity regardless of past activity levels, history of CVD and changes in established risk factors, such as overall diet quality, body weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Exercising for 2.5 hours per week could prevent almost half of deaths linked to physical inactivity, according to the research. This is just 22 minutes per day, so if you start with just 10 minutes, you're halfway there already!
Getting going early on can add extra benefits. A series of trials on exercise-induced weight loss shows that exercising before breakfast has a positive effect on fat metabolism.3
Sedentary, overweight men were used for this research, which suggests that exercising before breakfast may help the body to burn fat and regulate lipid metabolism. It's also easier to exercise before the day catches up with you and excuses (valid or otherwise!) appear. Again, if it's just 10 minutes, it's not such a scary thought.
For more encouragement, a very recent trial showed that exercise reduced the risk of deviating from a weight loss diet.4 For every additional 10 minutes of physical activity engaged in, the risk of lapsing from good dietary intentions decreased by 1%.
Lastly, another recent trial showed that taking exercise and drinking green tea might reduce the likelihood of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, related to being overweight.5 So, your liver will thank you for moving around more!
For more information on the benefits of exercising as you get older, click here.
If you have been diagnosed with any medical condition, or suffer from more general aches and pains as a result of getting older, it is advisable to speak to your doctor before embarking on a new exercise plan.
4 Crochiere RJ et al. Health Psychology 2020; 39 (3): 240
5 Khoo WY et al. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry 2020; 76: 108262