We all know that exercise is good for you. But as we get older, staying active is even more important.
Exercise brings a range of health benefits for your body and mind. It can lower your risk of developing a variety of health conditions, including heart disease and dementia. It can improve your strength, flexibility and balance. And the best thing is that it’s never too late to get moving! No matter what your age or health condition, there are ways to add more physical activity to your routine.
The benefits of staying active
Any activity is good activity, and can make a positive difference to your quality of life. Regular exercise helps improve mental and physical health, both of which will help you maintain your independence. As well as physical benefits, staying active can help your mental well-being too. From improving your mood to increasing self-esteem and helping you relax, there are plenty of reasons to get started.
Physical health benefits
- Helps to prevent disease Keeping fit and active can help prevent many common diseases, such as heart disease. Exercise improves immune and digestive functioning, blood pressure and bone density. Regular activity also brings a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain cancers.
- Maintain or lose weight Our metabolism naturally slows with age, so maintaining a healthy weight can be a challenge. Exercise helps to burn more calories, as it increases metabolism and builds muscle mass.
- Improve strength, flexibility, and balance You may worry about the risk of falls when exercising. Staying active actually improves posture, balance and coordination, which reduces the risk of falls. Strength training can help to reduce symptoms of conditions such as arthritis too.
Mental health benefits
- Improves mental well-being Those good old endorphins that are released when we exercise can help reduce feelings of sadness, depression, or anxiety. Exercise can relieve stress, helping you to feel more relaxed, boosting your mood and self-esteem.
- Get better sleep Our sleeping patterns change as we age, and we often sleep lighter than we used to. Regular physical activity can help to regulate sleep patterns; enabling you to wake feeling more refreshed and energetic.
- Keeps your brain fit While mental challenges such as Crosswords and Suduku help flex your grey cells, exercise brings benefits to your brain too. It can improve memory function, creativity and the ability to multitask – some studies say that it may even slow the progression of brain disorders too.
But I don’t like exercise!
The NHS advises adults over the age of 65 do at least 2 ½ hours (150 minutes) of moderate activity over a week. Aim to do something every day, or break it down into five days of 30 minutes of exercise per week.
However, if you’re not an exercise bunny don’t worry, you’re not alone. To help you start – and most importantly, maintain – a regular routine, it’s essential that you find an exercise that you love. You’re more likely to stick with something you enjoy, and turn it into a habit.
Find ways to include things you do like doing into your new active routine;
- Take photographs on a nature walk
- Listen to music or an audiobook at the gym
- Meet new people at a yoga or dance class
- Instead of chatting with a friend over coffee, meet to exercise instead
Exercise doesn’t have to mean burning a sweat and muscle aches. Combining a range of activities, whether aerobic (walking, bowls) or strength training (swimming, yoga) is the best approach.
What type of exercise can I do?
There are many types of activities to suit your health, age and preferences. Being more physically active may mean getting off of the bus one stop earlier and walking, climbing the stairs instead of using the lift or gardening more. Exercise is a little more structured and could include things like yoga, water aerobics and cycling.
Examples of low impact activities
- Tai chi
- Chair aerobics
Examples of higher impact activities
- Brisk walking
- Ballroom dancing
Don’t forget a healthy diet
A healthy and balanced diet goes hand in hand with staying active. Food is what we use to fuel our bodies so eating the right types will give us with the energy we need to keep fit.
Opting for more balanced and nutritional meals can help you avoid bad moods, lethargy, aches, pains and low energy levels. At Abbeyfield, our rotating menus provide a variety of nutritious food, so you can gain all of the good stuff without the time and hassle of preparing meals.
How to get started, safely
If you’re new to physical activity it’s important you don’t overexert yourself. Build up your exercise steadily – don’t push yourself too hard, to begin with.
- Talk to your doctor Before starting an exercise program talk to your doctor, especially if you have a pre-existing condition. Check if there are any activities you should avoid.
- Listen to your body Stop exercising immediately if you feel dizzy or faint, have chest pains, feel short of breath, or experience nausea or pain.
- Always warm-up and warm down Exercise shouldn’t hurt; pause your routine if a joint is swollen or tender —the best way to cope with injuries is to try and avoid them in the first place!
Abbeyfield Exercise Groups
If you’re an Abbeyfield South Downs resident and would like to get started, why not join one of our house exercise groups?
If you require any extra assistance please speak to your house manager.
Find out more
Quiz to find the right type of exercise for you from the British Heart Foundation
NHS Guidelines for keeping fit in later life
Walking is a great way to improve fitness. Contact Walking for Health for ways to get started.
Contact your local council for information about exercise groups in your area.