If asked to come up with a list of the benefits of regular exercise most of us could get to four or five reasonably easily:
- There are the health gains (reduced risk of chronic illness like heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers)
- Weight loss
- Increased energy levels
- Better sleep
- And, of course, just feeling happier
But what about exercising when older – are there any particular benefits?
Well, according to the World Health Organisation there are many. Here are just 7 of the big ones…
- You will prevent or delay disease
- You will reduce the risk of stroke or heart disease
- You will reduce the risk of dementia
- You will develop greater bone density
- You will reduce the risk of falls
- You will maintain independence and retain your confidence for longer
- You might even live longer
But how old is too old to exercise?
Arguably, we are never too old. Whether we are continuing with a lifetime commitment, or are just beginning, it is when we are older that it is most important to remain active. Of course, we must pay attention to our body and if we suffer from high blood pressure or arthritis for instance, then we should get checked out by our doctor before jumping into strenuous exercise.
But once we have made that commitment, what sort of exercise should we be doing?
There are three areas to concentrate on if we want to stay healthy and retain strength and functionality for as long as possible:
- Cardio exercise – go for an aerobic activity you already like, such as walking, swimming or cycling. Take it easy to start, build up your level of endurance slowly and stay injury free. Start at 5-10 mins per day and aim to get it up to 30 minutes over time
- Strength training – resistance exercise is vitally important as it will promote muscle strength and slow the decline in muscle mass and bone density. Initially, look at simple weight bearing exercises such as leg curls and box step-ups
- Flexibility & balance – yoga is great for retaining flexibility as we become older. But even just regular stretching and some balance exercises, such as standing on one leg, walking heel to toe or using a wobble board, will provide noticeable benefits.
So, is today an exercise day? Of course! And no matter how old we are if we exercise consistently over time we will feel the benefits and begin to live well now.