The importance of exercise

The prospect of exercise as we age can be a pretty scary thought… when those aches, pains and creaks feel like they’re here to stay, it is often tempting to give in to them and avoid anything that might make us feel worse, uncomfortable or even silly!

However as we age, its vital that we continue to move our bodies. Now this doesn’t mean we should be doing the same movement that we did in our youth… so read on to see what is recommended for exercise so that we age gracefully and “well”.

Our changing bodies

It’s no surprise with the way our lifestyles have changed over the past few generations that our bodies are being used less. With this, our muscles are being used less leading to a loss of muscle mass and power. Combined with the loss of bone density, reduced movement and dare we say increase in body fat levels for some of us, there is a lot trying to work against us!

These changes in our bodies usually bring with them an increased risk of frailty and falls, loss of strength, Sarcopenia (age-related muscle wasting), weight gain, high blood pressure and other medical challenges. Apart from the health risks, these risks also decrease what we all crave as we age; balance, mobility and ultimately independence.

So what can we do about it?

The best thing to do is to move our bodies more, but do so in the right way for our own, individual body and needs! Before you begin any new exercise routine, you should always consult your Doctor or Health Practitioner first.

Begin with slow, safe and comfortable forms of exercise such as walking, swimming or yoga. Once you are feeling comfortable with some new, gentle forms of movement, it is time to carefully increase to the point of “a little bit hard”, or just outside your comfort zone to actually trigger a response in your body.

What type of exercise?

The most recommended types of exercise for over 55s is actually Resistance Training, where we strengthen our muscles. This is critical in preserving strength, movement and overall independence. For those with the green light from their medical practitioner to begin this type of strength training, you may wish to engage a trainer for a specific routine or search online or on YouTube for “Resistance Training for over 55s”. Some of the activities you find might include gentle weights, or body weight exercises such as squats. Many exercises can be done in and around the home, or out and about without the need for purchasing any equipment.

Resistance Training in conjunction with Cardiovascular exercise where our heart rate is increased (such as walking, swimming or cycling) is a fantastic way to improve our health, and in some cases even reverse some of the aging process – wow!

Make it fun

After safety, the most important aspect to physical activity (at any age!) is to enjoy it. So you may choose to incorporate these philosophies into other activities such as bowls, cycling, croquet, water aerobics or other group and team sports… enjoying what we do is imperative to sustaining it. So however you choose to be active, be sure to do it safely and find a way to enjoy it!