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Benefits of exercise in later life – on your marks get set go!



The Rio Olympics and Paralympics are a great reminder of how exciting sport can be especially at the highest level.   Many of us who never watch canoeing or Judo at any other time enjoy watching athletes compete to be the very best in the world.  But you don’t need to be competing at the Olympic standard to feel the benefit of exercise in our daily lives.   We can enjoy exercising at any level of activity.

My mum and I often go for a 6-7 mile walk.  We go set off  in plenty of time for lunch as that is our incentive to get there quickly and not dawdle along.  She is 78 and much fitter than me but having lost her husband to a heart condition, she understands the need for regular exercise and really does feel the benefits.  Having a four year old grandchild who never sits still also helps keep her moving during her childminding days.

Benefits of exercise

Keeping healthy in old age is important and exercise is a key part component.  There’s a strong evidence base showing that people who are active have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, depression and dementia.   Remaining active can help you stay healthy and maintain your independence.

Exercising on a regular basis helps you feel better in yourself and it has a positive effect on the mind.

An added bonus is that exercise can boost your social life, if you decide to take up an activity where you meet others who are exercising at the same time.

How much exercise – getting started?

It’s never too late to start.  Getting in to the habit of exercising is good for you.  How much? NHS LiveWell recommend 150 minutes of activity each week.  That sounds like a lot but when broken down into daily activities it’s not very much.  Just going for a walk every day is a start.  However, taking part in an activity that raises your heart rate is what is needed.   Exercising five times a week for 30 minutes is what you should be aiming for.

This does not require you to run a marathon every week but perhaps try some of these activities:

  • walking faster than normal so you are a little out of breath
  • swimming not just splashing around
  • riding a bike on level ground or possibly with few hills
  • playing doubles tennis
  • pushing a lawn mower (not just sitting on it!)
  • aqua aerobics (just think of synchronised swimming!)

Ideally you would add in some weigh carrying activities such as:

  • weight training using a few dumb bells or even just using water bottles
  • carrying heavy loads
  • heavy gardening such as digging

Check in with you GP

If you haven’t been too active for a while and thinking of taking up a new sport, you should check in with your GP first.  Start slowly and build up to 150 minutes per week – you will start to feel the benefits of exercise as your health and overall fitness improves.

Ready to get started?  What is your favourite exercise?   Join our forum and let us know