The essential element of healthy ageing is exercise. Staying physically active on a daily basis can ensure fewer aches and pains, provide you with better mobility, more energy and even improve memory function.
If you have let your fitness regime slide, there is no wrong time to get started and there are plenty of safe workouts that you can try to kick-start your fitness regime. Even if you are worried about the current state of your physical health, these workouts will allow you to build strength and endurance gradually, so you can enjoy the benefits of a healthier lifestyle.
Research shows that a sedentary lifestyle is not healthy for those over the age of 50. It also indicates that those who start exercising later in life can improve their physical and mental health to be superior than inactive people who are years younger.
A strong core will improve your strength and mobility. Some of the best exercises for improving your core strength can be done at home. The first one to try is called the ‘bridge’. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, then contract your core and lift your hips off the floor until they form a straight line between your knees and your chest. Do not arch your back. Hold for three seconds and repeat five times. This improves strength in your buttocks, lower back and abdominal muscles and helps improve balance. From the same position flat on your back, you can also do leg lifts; lifting one leg 10 centimetres off the floor and holding for three seconds, repeating five times for each leg. This helps to strengthen your abdominal muscles and pelvis. Taking a yoga class is also a great way to strengthen your core muscles.
Swimming or other water activities are usually the preferred form of exercise for the over 50s. They are low impact, which is essential for people who may suffer from sore or aching joints, and present very little risk of injury. Swimming is also a complete body workout and helps improve heart health, reduces the risk of osteoporosis and improves muscle strength and flexibility.
As we age muscles become shorter and lose their elasticity. Stretching is an excellent way to address this issue and it also helps you relax and to relieve tension. Stretching can improve your posture, alleviate back pain and combat the effects of arthritis. The great thing about stretching is that it can be done at home and it doesn’t require much time. Ideally you should perform stretching exercises two to three days per week. You can work different parts of your body on different days.
There are plenty of tutorial videos on the internet, but here is a great stretching workout you can do in bed:
Strength and endurance training
Exercising your muscles will not only increase your strength, it will also increase your endurance. You only need to lift and use moderate weights to start to feel an immediate benefit. Strength training with moderate weights can provide relief from chronic pain and once your endurance starts picking up you will find it easier to go on long walks. Strength and endurance training can also help with osteoporosis and arthritis.
The best way to prevent falls down the track is a steady regime of solid balance exercises. You can start by standing on one foot and seeing how long you can hold the pose, or just try it for 10 seconds. Then switch feet and try again. Next you can try walking heel to toe for 20 steps, staying close to a wall if necessary. Taking a yoga or tai chi class will also open you up to a range of great balance exercises.
If you suffer from limited mobility there are a number of exercises you can complete while sitting down. This way you can still build and tone muscle, lubricate your joints and improve circulation. Here is a great video showing some of the exercises that you can do, concentrating on the lower body: