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Creative pursuits: Fitness

Posted on 03/10/2013

Staying fit and healthy is important at any age, and there are so many forms of exercise available to suit every range of abilities that there is sure to be something that appeals to you. There are dedicated classes and advice on everything from cycling and running, to group classes and guided walks. You can even do things like chair aerobics if mobility is an issue. No matter where you are in the country, you will have a wealth of options to choose from – it’s just figuring out what you want to try first!

The benefits

Keeping moving is so important to staying healthy and independent for as long as possible. Being fit is a key factor in reducing the risk of age-related illnesses. It also helps to keep your body stronger, making falls less likely.

There are specific benefits related to different types of exercise too, so you can tailor your program to target the areas that you want to work on. Yoga and Pilates, for example, help with balance, coordination and flexibility, as well as being good for the mind and helping with breathing techniques.

Cardiovascular activities like running, cycling, aerobics and walking help to burn calories, raise fitness levels, keep weight down, lower blood pressure and keep the heart strong. It can also help to lower the risk of certain cancers and diabetes, keep bones strong and protect mental health. Lower-impact activities, such as swimming, give you all of these benefits, but are kinder on joints.

Tips for getting started with exercise

Golfer If you are new to exercise, or haven't done it in a while, then you need to start slowly to ensure that you don't put too much strain on your body too soon. Follow these tips to get started gently and you will see the benefits become apparent within weeks.

1. Check with your doctor

Before you begin any new exercise routine, get the all-clear from your doctor. They can advise you on anything that you shouldn't do and recommend the right kind of exercises for you.

2. Start slow

Whatever exercise you choose, don't launch yourself it at full speed or you will be likely to injure yourself. If you are interested in walking more, then start to increase your time on your feet, walking to the shops and back slowly adding a few minutes at a time to your walk. Before long you will be stomping through the countryside on guided walks with fellow hikers!

3. Know your body

As you work out, pay attention to any aches and pains. You need to listen to your body – if something hurts, then stop. Speak to your doctor and take the right amount of rest. While it could just be your body adjusting to its new activity, it's better to be safe than sorry.

4. Commit to your schedule

It's so easy to start with good intentions and then let it all fall by the wayside. Join a class or a group so that you have a weekly commitment that you are more likely to stick to when you know others are expecting you. Arrange to meet a friend for a swim or a walk so that you have to turn up. Being active is easier once it becomes habit.

5. Never think it's too late to start

It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you've left it too late to start something new, but it's never too late. Fauja Singh is a marathon runner. He's also over 100 years old. While he ran in his youth, he gave it up only rediscovering his passion at the age of 81 – and he hasn't stopped since. There are inspirational people around the world in all kinds fo sports-based activities who prove that age is just a number, so find someone that inspires you and it will help you through.

Resources

NHS: Physical activity guidelines for older adults

The NHS has a guide for physical activity for those aged 65 and over, to help maintain health and fitness. This lists the amount of exercise that should be done every week, as well as examples of the types of activities that are included.

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/physical-activity-guidelines-for-older-adults.aspx

Fit as a Fiddle

Fit as a Fiddle is a nationwide program supporting older people with physical activity, healthy eating and mental wellbeing. There are projects around the country as part of this initiative that tailored to meet these goals. There are over 400 community organisations, including regional branches of Age UK.

http://www.ageuk.org.uk/health-wellbeing/fit-as-a-fiddle/about-fit-as-a-fiddle/

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