Being active is an important part of a healthy lifestyle for everyone, but especially as you get older. As you age, and perhaps begin to have aches and pains, or develop a health condition, you may be put off doing exercise. But staying active may be the key to keeping healthy, mobile and independent. It can also stop existing health problems getting worst and reduces your risk of developing new ones.
Getting enough exercise has a whole host of benefits for your physical and mental health. Studies show that people over 65 who regularly exercise are healthier. They are also less likely to get serious long-term health conditions than those who don’t. Doing regular exercise can reduce your risk of getting:
Exercise can also improve the strength and tone of your muscles. This means you’re less likely to have an accident or a fall and hurt yourself. Regular exercise can also help:
You should aim to be as active as possible.
Don’t be put off if this seems a lot. If you’re just getting started, take it easy at first and gradually increase how much activity you do to build up your fitness. The most important thing is to spend as little time as possible being inactive. Any activity is better than none – more is better still.
If you’re already regularly active, you could try doing 75 minutes of vigorous exercise spread over the week. If you’re doing vigorous exercise, your breathing will be much deeper and quicker, and your heart rate will increase quickly. You’ll find it harder to talk too. Or you could do a combination of moderate and vigorous activity.
Your aerobic fitness shows how healthy your heart and lungs are. As you get older, your aerobic fitness tends to get lower naturally. But you can stop this by doing any activity that increases your heart rate and makes you slightly breathless.
You can do aerobic exercise anywhere and anytime. Whether it’s taking the stairs instead of the lift, going to a gym, exercise class, swimming pool or getting out into the great outdoors. There are also lots of aerobic exercises you can do in the comfort of your own home if you prefer.
You may find it helpful to use a pedometer or step counter to see how active you are and track your progress. This may help you decide whether you could be more active, especially at certain times of the day or on certain days of the week. There are no official rules on how many steps you should do each day, but the more steps you do, the better your fitness and health should be.
Here are some ideas to get more aerobic exercise.
Your muscles lose strength as you get older, but it’s possible to limit how much strength you lose. Try building up your muscles with some strengthening exercises. Keeping them as strong as possible will make it easier for you to carry out daily activities and reduce your risk of falls.
You don’t have to lift heavy weights to strengthen your muscles – everyday activities can help too. We’ve put together some suggestions of activities to build up both your aerobic fitness and strength. Doing some balance and stretching exercises will help you reap even more benefits. Have a go at a few things until you work out what suits you best.
Here are some ideas of strengthening activities.
As you get older, your muscles get weaker. You may get more aches and pains and become more likely to fall and hurt yourself. As with any age group, fitness levels vary from person to person. Some older people run marathons, while others find it hard to get out of a chair without help.
If you have a health condition or are recovering from an illness, this may affect how active you can be. But don’t assume it’ll stop you from being active altogether. It may be more important than ever to exercise to help you get better.
Walking is often very safe but if you’re worried about any health conditions, ask your GP about what’s safe for you.
If you struggle to exercise on your feet due to a long-term illness, it’s even more important to try to exercise when you can. Exercise can boost your mood and help your mental health. And you can do this while you sit in a chair.
Have a chat with a physiotherapist about other exercises that may be right for you.
Being inactive or sitting down for long periods of time is linked to an increased risk in developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT). The following video demonstrates some simple lower leg exercises you can do daily from the comfort of your own home to help prevent
“I had a bad fall last year and since then I’ve been reluctant to exercise. I’m worried I’ll have another fall.”
“Sign up to do a yoga or Pilates class on a couple of days each week. This may help to improve your balance and coordination and stop you having any more falls. You could pick a class that’s especially for older people or join any group and just do what you can. Make sure you tell your instructor if you have any health problems.
“You could also consider having an assessment with a physiotherapist to work out any areas of weakness. You can then work with them – or a fitness instructor – to strengthen these muscle groups.”
“I have arthritis in my knee and it’s so painful at times I can hardly move.”
“You may be worried that exercise will hurt your knee but the opposite is true. If you keep moving and do some exercise, it can help to keep your joints working well and ease any pain. Research has shown that if you have osteoarthritis in your knee, exercise eases the pain and makes your knee joint work better.
“Research has shown that exercise may help hip pain too, and maybe even help how well your hip joint works. Try swimming to start with because you can exercise your joints without the pressure of your weight on them. You could also try tai chi, which may help to ease the pain from osteoarthritis of your knee.
“It doesn't matter how old you are. Taking some regular exercise will help your arthritis and boost your general health and wellbeing.”
“I’m too old to start exercising.”
“You’re never too old to exercise! Start with some gentle walks and build up your fitness gradually. Once you get your confidence up, try having a go at other activities.”
If you’re sensible, exercising won’t be harmful. It’s certainly less harmful than not being active at all. If it’s been some time since you exercised, start slowly and see how you get on.
But if you feel pain in your joints or get dizzy while you’re exercising, stop and get medical advice – especially if these symptoms don’t go away when you stop.
Stop exercising and seek medical advice straightaway if you: