Don’t think you’re ever too old for exercise to make a difference. Even if you start in your 50s or 60s, you’ll be stronger in your 70s, 80s and beyond.
Stronger muscles stabilise joints, and these combined are critical for preventing falls. Exercise will also improve your energy and metabolism, boost your mood, help you to maintain a healthy weight, improve your thinking skills and general well-being.
You don’t have to start running marathons. Research suggests that low-impact activity, such as yoga and walking, is just as effective as running, in lowering the risk of heart disease, for example.
Here are 10 ways in which you could start improving your fitness...
Often those who start practising yoga later in life are the ones who benefit the most. As pop queen Madonna, now in her 60s, will testify, yoga can improve your physical fitness and also your general wellbeing. Through postures and breathing exercises, yoga can help develop strength, balance and flexibility, and as such, is popular amongst people with various health conditions including arthritis. Most exercises are performed seated or lying down. It is widely agreed that yoga can also lift a person’s mood.
There are various types of yoga, including Ashtanga, Iyengar and Sivananda. Some styles are more vigorous than others, while some may have a different area of emphasis, such as posture or breathing. You can find out more about yoga and search for classes in your area on the British Wheel of Yoga website - the Sport England-recognised governing body for yoga.
Various free online yoga workouts for all abilities can be found on YouTube, whilst you can also download a yoga app on your mobile or tablet.
Pilates focuses on slow, controlled movements to build up your core muscle strength. Rebalancing the body and improving your posture helps to improve muscle strength, which is clearly beneficial in the prevention of falls. This improved strength can also improve your overall wellbeing.
A range of Pilates (and yoga) classes can be found on the NHS website. You can also search online for classes in your area or free virtual workouts, including those which can be found at Pilates Live UK.
3 Tai Chi
Tai Chi originates from Ancient China and is a very popular exercise among older people all around the world. It again focuses on slow and gentle movement, supporting balance and posture, and again is credited with helping you to relax and improving your mental wellbeing. You won't get a calorie-burning workout, but you will increase strength, flexibility and balance.
Walking at a leisurely pace is a great start to stretch your muscles. But to increase your fitness and build your stamina, you have to go a little faster. We’re just talking a brisk walk, here, not a jog or run - unless you are up to those things of course.
Walking is the most popular low-impact exercise, and it burns calories as well as working the cardiovascular system - pumping the blood healthily around your body, transporting oxygen and nutrients to where they are needed. If you can, as you grow more confident and able, add short bursts of speed or occasionally walk up a hill. You might be able to find a local walking club, which will help you meet new people while exercising and exploring the area.
We've put together a list of beautiful places to walk in Cumbria and The Lake District which you can read here.
You may well have watched Strictly Come Dancing on TV and be of the belief that you could never move that fast, with such suppleness, around the dance floor. Well, you don’t have to. There's a dance style to suit all tastes and abilities, and speeds. Dance classes can help you meet new people while having fun, and at the same time enjoying a great workout. Learning new dances is also good for improving your brain and memory functions.
Dance Near You has a database of 1,000-plus dance classes of all levels run by dance teachers, dance schools and studios located across the UK, with various online classes currently available so you can join in from home. Para Dance UK is also a great website. The organisation aims to develop and promote dancing both as a sport and leisure activity for those in a wheelchair.
6 Zumba Gold
The original Zumba is full of energy, combining a dance workout with a party atmosphere. Zumba Gold makes it accessible for older people. You’ll be dancing to the sound of Latin music while improving your cardiovascular fitness and burning calories.
Dance experience is not necessary, as moves are broken down and the intention is to move a little while having fun.
Many older people are taking up cycling these days. It is a low-impact activity that works your lower body and cardiovascular system. Of course it can still lead to injuries, so you must ensure you have the right size bike, with the saddle and handlebars adjusted correctly for your posture. You only need to start slowly, with short journeys, and then increase the length and maybe speed of your cycling trips gradually.
Swimming is a great all-over workout and should be pleasurable. Don’t push yourself too hard, instead feel those aches and pains being massaged by the water. Simply swimming a few lengths will work most of the muscle groups. It can also help you lose weight if you swim at a steady, continuous pace.
Our upcoming Spa & Wellness Centre - The Sanctuary - will include a swimming pool which will be available to use by residents of Scalesceugh Hall & Villas, as well as the public through a membership scheme.
9 Aqua Aerobics
Aqua aerobics is a low-impact activity that requires a basic swimming ability, because it is mostly carried out in water at least waist-deep. Techniques are borrowed from gym aerobics, including walking backwards and forwards, and various arm movements.
Often thought of as a more gentle sport for elderly people, bowls is actually enjoyed by all ages. It may not be the most energetic game, but it improves posture, flexibility, balance and co-ordination.
You can search for your nearest bowls club online or on the Bowls England website.