Exercises to avoid midlife aches and pains

Asian woman on a yoga mat doing the dolphin plank pose.
Asian woman on a yoga mat doing the dolphin plank pose.

Grey hair, wrinkles and the dreaded middle-age spread aren't the only signs of ageing. As we get older, doing things we used to take for granted can become more difficult – whether that's running up the stairs or getting up from an easy chair. At the same time, getting over a day of heavy exercise can take longer, as can recovering from an injury or bout of illness.

While some aspects of ageing are inevitable, there are things you can do to avoid the general aches and pains that come with middle age. Here are five excesses that will help...

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1. Plank
The plank is a great exercise for maintaining a strong core, which in turn will help you avoid backache, one of the most common complaints in middle age. If your stomach muscles are strong, it will help to support your back and improve your posture.

The plank is easy to do – you don't need any equipment, or even much space to perform it.

Start in a push-up position, with your shoulders over your elbows and shoulders pulled down. Brace your core and breathe shallowly into your chest. Don't let the lower back sag towards the floor (imagine a dagger pointed towards your belly) and don't raise your hips too high either – your spine should be neutral throughout.

Aim to hold for 15 seconds, then 30 seconds, and a minute, until you can do three minutes. If you can hold a plank for three minutes every day, your back and abdominals will soon be in a good shape.

2. Boxing
Stress can be a problem in middle-age, particularly if you have teenage children, older parents and work demands to worry about. Left unchecked, stress and anxiety can have a detrimental effect on the body, increasing your risk of heart disease and many other illnesses.

Work off some of that tension with a boxing exercise class, or hitting a punch bag at home.
A short intense workout will strengthen your arms and core, while boxing moves help to ensure you get rotational movement, which you may not get with other forms of activity.

If you're new to boxing, invest in some decent boxing gloves and go easy to start with to avoid injury. If you have a weak wrist or dodgy elbow, consider buying a liquid filled bag, as these have more 'give' to them than traditional leather punch bags.

3. Sprint-crawls
If a dodgy knee or arthritic hip makes it hard to jog or walk, consider doing lengths in the pool.

Swimming is one of the best forms of low-impact exercise and a good cardio workout that will burn fat if you push yourself to do sprint crawls.

Not only does it work your heart and lungs and tone your muscles, it also gives your whole body a good stretch and improves your co-ordination. And because the water takes the weight of your body, you're less likely to suffer injuries.

4. Kettlebell training
Weight training is a good choice in middle life, particularly for women.

Women lose 5% of their muscle mass every 10 years after the age of 30. This is a problem if you're watching your weight, as the less muscle mass you have, the fewer calories your body will burn.

From the age of 40 onwards, bone density also naturally declines, increasing the risk of osteoporosis, a condition which makes the bones more prone to breaks. Weight-bearing exercise and resistance exercise is one of the best ways to strengthen the bones and reduce the risk of injury.

If you choose kettle bell training, you will include full body movements that help to prevent general aches and pains. Doing a class to start is a good idea, so you can make sure your posture is correct. You can then buy some kettlebell weights and a workout DVD. Start slow, and aim to do 30-minutes five days a week. If you go hard one day, be sure to rest the next to give your muscles chance to repair.

5. Sun salutations
Yoga is a great way to lengthen the muscles, increase your flexibility and improve posture and balance.

If you often feel achy when you wake up, try doing a sequence of yoga moves each day – such as the sun salutation. This series of movements will help to elongate your spine, stretch out your back muscles and improve your flexibility. It can be done in 10 minutes or less, and can make a surprising difference to your day.

Join a class to learn, or follow a video on Youtube. You can buy yoga DVDs from Amazon for less than £10.