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Exercise Advice for Over 60s

Everyone has heard it at some point during their life, ‘being active leads to a healthy body and mind.’ This becomes increasingly important as you get older. So, why is it that as we get older, we tend to neglect exercise?

Whilst just the idea of walking up the stairs could be too much for some, you would be surprised at just how much progress you can make by taking part in just a little bit of exercise every day.

There are a whole host of benefits when it comes to exercising, especially as you get older. Some of these health benefits include more independence, improved mood, increased energy levels, an improved immune system and improved brain function.

With the cost of attending a care home constantly rising, it is important to look after your health now more than ever. For more health tips on how to stay healthy, take a look at our page on ‘Health tips as we age.’

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The Health Benefits of Exercise in Older Adults

We all know that there are many benefits to exercise. This is true throughout our whole life, and becomes even more important to us as we get older. Physical activity provides many benefits, including increased fitness levels and improved cognitive ability.

Some of these benefits are listed and explained in further detail below [1].

1. Increased independence

When you exercise on a regular basis, you become more independent. In fact, the Harvard Medical School stated that exercising on a regular basis allows you to feel more confident to do a whole host of things on your own, things that you would never have had the confidence to do before.

This increases your self-reliance and makes you feel more capable of looking after yourself and prioritising your self-care.

2. Increased balance

By exercising on a regular basis, you will also experience improved balance. This might not be a massively important thing for anyone under 60, but keeping your balance as you get older becomes incredibly important.

As you get older, the fear of falling becomes huge, as you might struggle to keep your balance and avoid falling over. In fact, an elderly person falls every 11 seconds in the UK and is admitted into A&E [2].

However, studies have shown that exercising on a regular basis will reduce your chances of falling.

3. Increased energy levels

Whilst most people think that by exercising they will feel less energetic, the opposite is in fact true. People tend to feel like they have more energy when they exercise on a regular basis.

This is because when you exercise, your body will release things called endorphins. These endorphins are essentially neurotransmitters which make you feel happy, excited and also reduces your levels of stress.

Endorphins make you feel like you have more energy, and therefore also increase your chances of wanting to exercise more in the future, too.

4. Disease prevention

In addition to some of the above benefits, exercise is also known to reduce your chances of developing diseases. In fact, exercise has been known to reduce the chances of developing heart disease, depression and diabetes.

As you get older, your chances of developing one of these diseases increases, which is why it is incredibly important to try to create and maintain a healthy lifestyle as you get older. This includes eating healthily, socialising and exercising on a regular basis.

5. Improved cognitive function

Finally, many doctors argue that one of the best benefits to exercising on a regular basis is improved cognitive function. Exercising on a regular basis has been proven to improve your memory and also contributes to a healthy mindset.

In fact, numerous studies have now shown that exercising on a regular basis has been known to reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer’s by as much as 50% [3]. If that statistic doesn’t encourage you to put your running shoes on, we don’t know what will!

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What do the doctors say?

Regardless of wherever you are in the world, all doctors will agree that there are significant benefits when it comes to exercise for older people. However, how much exercise is enough exercise?

Doctors recommend that you should spend approximately 150 minutes, which is around two and a half hours) exercising every week. You should try to aim for moderate to intense exercise, which means exercising enough so that you are out of breath.

You should try to ensure that you are out of breath and are using a range of different muscles. You should try to work on your balance and flexibility, too.

Doctors also highlight that if you spend a significant amount of your days being sat down, then you should aim to get up and move regularly, even if that means that you simply get up and walk around the house or even up and down the stairs [1].

Whilst the idea of going to the gym or joining a fitness class might seem out of reach, it is important to start small and to work your way up to where you want to be. Most gyms hold classes for older people, which includes anything from aqua aerobics to Pilates.

Exercise ranges from light, to moderate to vigorous. Whilst doctors want you to exercise at least 150 minutes a week moderately, there’s no harm in making sure you do some light exercise every day, which could include things such as walking the dog.

1. What counts as light activity?

Light activity is when you start to move your body, instead of staying statutory. This includes things such as going to the kitchen to make yourself a cup of tea, walking around your home and up and down the stairs, walking the dog around the block, cleaning the house or even making the bed.

As you can see, you will do most of these things on a day-to-day basis without even realising that you are exercising. However, all of these daily tasks add up and before you know if you have done a significant amount of light activity.

However, it is easy to avoid doing some of the above things as you get older. This is because you simply don’t have to leave the house as much, or because people have started doing things for you, such as making you a cup of tea, cleaning the house or doing your weekly food shop for you.

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2. What counts as moderate activity?

Moderate activity is the kind of exercise that increases your heart rate, and makes you out of breath. If you struggle to talk or sing because you are so out of breath, then you are most likely moderately exercising.

This includes things such as going on a long walk, taking part in activities such as aqua aerobics, dancing, playing tennis, hiking or gardening.

Again, you might be surprised at just how much moderate activity you do in your normal, day-to-day lives already without even realising it.

3. What counts as vigorous activity?

Vigorous activity is when you are out of breath, so much so that you would struggle to talk or sing whilst exercising. This means that you are working yourself incredibly hard, and wouldn’t be able to talk without being out of breath.

In fact, exercising vigorously for just 75 minutes is usually the same as exercising moderately for the recommended 150 minutes a week. Some people prefer to exercise moderately for longer, whereas others prefer to exercise vigorously for less time.

Vigorous activity includes things such as running, swimming, riding a bike, playing tennis, hiking up a steep hill or mountain, dancing vigorously or performing martial arts.

Most people do not exercise vigorously in their day-to-day life, so have to be very active when it comes to starting this type of exercise. Most fitness classes work you hard enough so that you’re out of breath, which is why joining a class at the gym is such a great starting point.

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The best exercises for older people

As we have discussed above, exercising is extremely important for your health, especially as you get older. Whilst most people know this, it’s not always easy knowing where you can begin.

This is especially true for people who have not exercised frequently throughout their life. If you have always been active, then the chances are you have remained active as you have gotten older.

However, if you have never gone to the gym, joined a fitness class or kept yourself active, then starting to do so at an old age can seem incredibly daunting, intimidating and scary.

Before you start exercising, join a gym or go on regular runs, you should always check in with your local doctor or physician to ensure that you are in good enough health to be doing so.

You could always also talk to them to get their advice on what type of activities you should be doing in order to stay fit and healthy as you get older.

Below is a list of some of the very best activities you can do to stay fit and healthy as you age.

  • Water aerobics
  • Resistance bands workout
  • Pilates
  • Chair yoga
  • Walking
  • Hiking
  • Body weight workouts
  • Rowing
  • Weight training
  • Zuma
  • Dance

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How do I know when I am exercising moderately?

Lots of people get confused when it comes to light, to moderate, to vigorous activity. However, there is an easy and simple test you can use to help tell when you are exercising moderately.

If you are able to have a conversation with someone, but can tell that your heart rate is up, then you are exercising moderately. You should also feel muscle ache the next day, which should last for a day or two.

When should I stop exercising?

You should always ensure that you are safe when exercising, and shouldn’t ever push yourself too much. You should stop exercising if you experience any form of pain, feel dizzy or start to experience a tingly sensation anywhere.

You should seek medical advice if you get any chest pain, feel dizzy or struggle to breath.

If you would like more information on how to stay fit and healthy, especially in the winter months, then take a look at our article on a ‘Guide to keeping well this winter for the elderly.’





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