Easy ways to exercise as you get older
It can be easy in later years to resign yourself to the fact that you can’t do quite as much as you used to. However, by exercising, you can actually retain your independence for longer. Just as with the younger generation, exercise can greatly reduce the risk of things like heart disease and stroke. Not only that, but it can improve bone condition and your ability to get around, which in turn reduces the likelihood of falls, aches and pains, and increased immobility.
When starting a new exercise regime, you should always do what you feel capable of, and gradually build your activity levels up in line with your own abilities. If you’re free from health conditions that limit your mobility, aim to do up to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. In addition, you should aim for muscle strengthening exercises on two or more days.
Here some easy ways in which you can exercise as you get older, and start to fit in those all-important 150 minutes.
Water aerobics is one of the best types of exercise for older people to get started with, because it is low-impact on your joints whilst providing enough resistance to make your body work. It’s a great full body cardiovascular workout.
So too, in fact, is swimming lengths, as demonstrated by ninety-two year-old Ada Gibson. Previously terrified of water, she learned to swim at seventy-five and now visits her local pool every week. “Swimming keeps me going,” she says. “I won’t give up swimming until my body tells me it’s time to stop.”
While a leisurely stroll is better than no stroll at all, a good brisk walk at least once or twice a week is much more effective in raising your fitness levels and body condition. Plus, being surrounded by the tranquillity and beauty of the great outdoors can do wonders for your wellbeing.
You don’t need sideburns worthy of Bradley Wiggins to hop on a bike – cycling is also a fantastic form of exercise for older people of varying skill levels. Cycling on smooth, level ground or terrain with a few manageable hills is more than enough to get started with, and will raise your heart rate enough for your body to feel the benefits.
Playing singles tennis is high-impact and can be very tiring. Doubles tennis offers a calmer alternative, as the effort is halved and a larger area of the court covered, meaning sudden movements aren’t strictly necessary and the pace of the game is much more manageable. If you find a game of singles more suitable, however, try playing badminton instead, as it’s less intense than tennis.
If anyone is testament to just how beneficial running can be for older adults, it’s 102 year-old Fauja Singh. After taking up running aged eighty-nine to help overcome depression, he went on to run numerous marathons and, according to a doctor’s test in 2011, has the bones of a thirty-five year old.
You needn’t tackle a feat quite as challenging as Fauja’s though. Set yourself small goals to begin with, building up slowly, and balance running intervals with walking intervals. The key is to not be afraid to walk when you need to, or to slow down your speed – you should only do what you can feasibly manage.
Dancing is great fun, and it doesn’t have to be fast-paced to come with health benefits. Ballroom dancing and even line dancing are perfectly good forms of exercise, especially for older adults whose mobility and fitness may not be what it used to be. Dance classes are also a great way to get out of the house and socialise, increasing your sense of wellbeing.
While not every aspect of gardening is strenuous enough to be classed as exercise, things like mowing the lawn, digging and shovelling do require a healthy amount of cardiovascular effort. Plus the fresh air from being outside will do wonders for your wellbeing. What better excuse to tend to your garden and start turning it into the outside space you’ve always wanted to enjoy?
It’s understandable that sometimes you might not feel like getting out and about, or simply don’t have the time to do so. If this is the case, there are plenty of exercises you can do right in the comfort of your own home. Sideways leg lifts, small squats and bicep curls with manageable weights all take place on the spot, so you could even do them while watching television or listening to your favourite radio station.
It may feel hard at first – especially if you haven’t exercised for some time – but by gradually building up the length of time and the intensity of your workouts, you’ll find that your health and ability will increase over time. Remember, it’s never too late to start exercising.