Fitness in later life

Senior healthy fitness couple. In the park.

We hear much in the press these days about the importance of physical activity for our youngsters, but fitness is just as important as we age. Though you may not have the strength and endurance of your teen years, there are many ways in which the over-65s can improve and maintain good health.

How much?
Provided you have no long-term health condition that might limit your mobility, mature adults should look to get at least two and a half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, along with strength or resistance training on two more days a week, ensuring that you work all the major muscle groups. For those that are in good fitness already, weekly muscle-strengthening can be combined with 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, or a mix of the moderate and vigorous.

Getting physical is particularly important if you lead a reasonably sedentary lifestyle. As we get older, we are at greater risk of weak muscles, bones, poor balance and flexibility, and of falling and injuring ourselves, and the right exercise can make a great deal of difference. Meanwhile aerobic exercise helps to keep the heart and lungs in good condition.

Moderate-intensity exercise
If you don't feel up to a vigorous game of tennis or heading out for a run, it doesn't mean you can't get and stay fit. Brisk walking, gentle cycling, ballroom dancing or aqua aerobics can all improve your fitness, strength and stamina, without putting too much of a strain on joints and muscles. Better still, if you're a keen gardener, you can count lawn-mowing as part of your exercise regime. Provided your activity raises the heart rate so that you breathe faster and feel warmer, you're on the right track.

Vigorous-intensity exercise
For the already fit mature man or woman, you can cut the amount of time you spend exercising by increasing the intensity. That could mean jogging, fast or hilly cycling, uphill hiking, martial arts or even some fast front crawl in the pool. If you're breathing is hard and fast, the heart is pumping and you need a little pause before you can say more than a few words, it means you're well on the way to improving your fitness level.

Strength training
Strengthening the muscles is vital to improve balance, flexibility and posture, and there are many ways in which you can reap the benefits. Lifting weights is a fine way to strengthen up, as long as you don't try to do too much too soon, but exercises in which your own body weight is used for resistance, as in push-ups or sit-ups, can do the job without the need for equipment. Everyday activities such as carrying groceries or digging in the garden will also provide muscle strengthening. If you prefer to work mind and body together, then yoga, Pilates or tai chi will provide a mental and physical workout that's great for relieving stress as well as strengthening the core and improving balance.

Whatever, wherever and however you choose to incorporate exercise into your day-to-day life - from social activities to at-home fitness - you'll begin to see and feel the difference in your energy, mental wellbeing and general health in no time.

Are you over 65? What do you do to stay fit and well? Leave your comments below...
Tips to Get Fit Over 50