Body & Fitness

You’re never too old to exercise

Hopefully we're starting to get the message that exercise isn't just something you should be doing when you're young - it's important for people of all ages to help us stay healthy. You're never too old to get fit, although the type of activity that's best for you is bound to vary depending on your age.

Forties

once you hit your forties, your metabolism starts to slow down, thanks to the fact that your heart rate increases and the amount of muscle mass you have begins to decrease. As a result you may notice the first signs of middle-aged spread.

Turning 40 also signals a decrease in the amount of growth hormone your body produces. As well as helping your body to use its fat stores for fuel, this hormone is also crucial for the strength of your muscles, bones and tendons and helps you to exercise more efficiently.

Try this:

High-intensity exercise, such as running or aerobics, helps to produce more growth hormone, while strength training – for example, press-ups – builds muscles, which in turn will slow down your metabolism.

Start out slowly and increase the intensity of your workout gradually.

Try a mixture of moderate aerobic work, such as cycling, swimming or running, and incorporate bursts of speed every now and then.

Combine this with one or two sessions of strength training a week, doing press-ups, sit-ups, squats and lunges or working out with weights.

Fifties

If you’ve been a couch potato, this is when you’re likely to start noticing the effects of being unfit, such as being unable to walk up even a couple of stairs without panting. If you spend a lot of time at a desk, you may have lower back, neck or shoulder pain. You’ll be more prone to this kind of pain if your muscles are weak due to lack of exercise.

Women may be losing bone mass and increasing their risk of osteoporosis because of hormonal changes linked to menopause. Weight-bearing exercise is crucial to help build strong bones.

Try this:

Do weight-bearing exercises like walking or weight-training at least three times a week, but remember not to overdo it.

Walking is the best way to start. Even 10 minutes a day, which you can gradually increase, will make a difference. once you get stronger, you may be able to begin running.

An organised exercise class like aerobics or Zumba will not only help to increase fitness, but can be a lot of fun.You also need to strengthen the muscles in your torso to help to prevent back problems. Pilates and yoga are good for this, as are sit-ups.

Sixties

Your muscle mass and strength decline further, and if you haven’t been physically active, you may find that anything vaguely strenuous leaves you feeling knackered.

Don’t forget your heart is a muscle and needs to be exercised too. Plus weight-bearing workouts are important for keeping bones and muscles strong.

Exercise is also good for lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, which can be unhealthily high by this age.

Try this:

Exercise that builds up cardiovascular fitness is vital for your heart and your lungs, but you need to take care not to put too much strain on your joints.

Walking is, yet again, one of the best things you can do. Aqua aerobics might be a better choice if you want to do some kind of aerobics class – the water helps ease the impact on your joints.

Dancing can also be good, and because it is a social activity, can be beneficial for your emotional health.

If you’re nervous about exercising in front of other people, try an exercise DVD or even an active video game like a Wii Fit that you can do in the privacy of your own home.

Seventies

Flexibility is important. Elasticity of muscles and tendons decreases dramatically and doing activities to help keep you supple puts less strain on muscles and also on your cardiovascular system.

Strength training to keep your muscles strong is still crucial and low-impact aerobic exercise is also good for mental health – it releases hormones that help boost your mood and may protect against depression.

Try this:

Swimming is great all-over exercise, while walking, once again, is very good for you. Yoga and tai chi will help with flexibility while a sociable sport like bowls helps to keep you strong.

Activities like gardening are also good for getting you moving and building strength.

Eighties

It’s still not too late to get moving, although be very careful to get advice from a professional about the sort of exercise you should do.

Being active helps octogenarians maintain mobility and independence, and slows down muscle wastage.

Exercise can also make you physically stronger, which can help to prevent falls.

Best exercise:

Swimming, dancing in your living room, walking up and down the garden path for five minutes – or even household chores – can all improve your fitness.

Choose exercise that is gentle and low-impact. Avoid movements that involve reaching above your head – these can strain your heart. Try light stretching and even while sitting, try leg lifts and ankle rotations if you can.

  • Before starting any exercise regime you should consult your doctor.

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