Exercise – The Key to Healthy Ageing

Exercise - The Key to Healthy Ageing

At Prime Fifty, we believe that regular exercise is the key to healthy ageing. And it’s never too late to start exercising if you haven’t done it before!

Keeping physically active makes you feel better all round, leads to a healthier life in general and also is known to fend off chronic illnesses, as we get older.

Even if we treat ourselves to a healthy, well balanced diet, exercise is still a much needed requirement if we are to try and push back the years as we get older.

The problem is that nowadays, too many of us are simply not getting enough exercise and this overly sedentary lifestyle is contributing to an epidemic of obesity, diabetes and many more chronic illnesses. This is not only applicable to the over 50s, but unfortunately is now very common with even our youngest generation too.

A 2011 UK NHS study concluded that only around a third of people are getting enough exercise!

If we want to fight back the years and stay young, then exercise is a must, and it takes only a bit of effort to significantly enhance how we feel and benefit our whole body, whether this be our heart, our muscles and even our brains. Staying physically active is the silver bullet to healthy living and this becomes even more important as we get older.

Physical activity means anything from everyday tasks, like cleaning the house, heavy gardening or walking the dog. Or it might be more specific exercise like keeping fit, cycling, jogging, aerobics, zumba, yoga, pilates, visiting the gym, swimming, golf, football, or tennis. The best type of activity is one that makes you feel warmer and breathe heavier and getting your heart and pulse pumping faster than usual.

The huge benefits of keeping active include:

  • a reduced risk of developing a chronic illnesses and disease
  • a greater likelihood of maintaining or reaching a healthy weight
  • a greater sense of well-being
  • improved sleep and increased day-time vitality

If you stay physically active, you're also likely to stay independent much longer. Exercise will also make you stronger and you'll feel more confident overall.

If you’ve never exercised however, then it’s always best to talk to your doctor first. Your GP is also a good place to start to learn about exercise for your health.

Inactivity and an overly sedentary lifestyle can unfortunately put us at greater risk of a whole host of disease states such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease and even some cancers.

One can read a lot about how we are now living much older than we used to, many years ago. However, what we want is not just to live longer, but also we want to live our additional years as healthy as possible ie more healthy years with no disabilities.

“I want to keep my mobility”
In a recent piece of market research with over 50s consumers, Prime Fifty asked people what they were most afraid of losing as they got older….the overwhelming response was that of mobility. It’s something we take for granted and it is a very valuable gift, which we should appreciate and also look after all our lives, as losing it is can be devastating.

People in our survey just wanted to remain mobile and be able to do all the things they take for granted such as going on walks, playing with the grandkids and taking part in various activities such as travelling.

As we get older, of course, we get the odd ache and pain in our joints and also perhaps find it a little more difficult to lift that box, or the grandkids or even just bend or kneel in the garden. One of the reasons for this is that we are losing muscle mass and becoming weaker as we age. This is nothing new of course, but if we don’t exercise regularly, then this ability to do these various activities will slowly ebb away and we can find ourselves becoming less and less mobile. This in turn makes it even more difficult to be active and therefore we tend to then become even more sedentary… and this then becomes a vicious spiral.

Muscle Wastage and Loss of Strength
As we get older, we tend to start losing muscle mass. In fact we lose around 1% of our muscles every year after 45-50 yrs old, which means we may have lost up to a quarter of our muscle mass by 65! This is quite a frightening fact, but unfortunately, this is what happens as we age.

If we just let this go unchecked, then we will of course lose strength, meaning that our ability to run, walk, bend, carry etc will all suffer. All this will lead us to be less mobile than before and this can only get worse as we age further.

However, with exercise, we can slow down this process dramatically and remain strong and active, and can continue for many years to do what we want, such as play with the grandkids, do the gardening and participate in activities and go for long walks.

Many scientific studies have also proved that combining exercise with a higher intake of very healthy protein, can help maintain our muscles and also increase our strength too, which must be the right direction to take, if we are to remain healthy and active for as long as possible.

Getting Started
First of all, ANY exercise is a good thing.

This can be anything from jogging, cycling, aerobics, pilates, yoga, zumba and perhaps even the gym, right through to simply standing up from a chair 50 times a day, if you are currently very sedentary. The type of exercise and the degree of intensity is related to what you can do currently and not necessarily your age.

If you haven't done any exercise for years, then start gently and build up gradually. If you're exercising for the first time or are unsure if you should try a particular activity, talk to your GP first.

Experts recommend thirty minutes of moderate exercise a day at least five times a week. It can be all in one half- hour, or split into three periods of ten minutes or in smaller bouts of activity throughout your day.

A good starting point may be to begin with a short five-minute brisk walk in your local park.  Then build up gradually, increasing slowly to the full 30 minutes over a number of weeks. Walking is great for your health and there are walking groups open to different ages around the country.

As you get more familiar and more confident exercising, then you can think about extending the exercise and also ramping up its intensity.

This could include anything from going to a zumba class, jogging, cycling, doing aerobics, going down to the gym etc. These activities will make a real difference to your life, not only in how you feel all round, but also how much good it will do to your overall health.

Types of Exercise
There are basically three areas that we need to think about…..and you will need to cover at all three types.

a/ Aerobic Exercise
This is about expanding your lungs and breathing hard, which is great for the heart and the whole cardio-vascular system in its entirety. Its so important to push our bodies on a daily basis to ensure that our heart and lungs work hard or they will simply start losing their effectiveness with time and eventually this can lead to chronic conditions such as hypertension(high blood pressure), high cholesterol and cardiovascular issues such as heart failure and strokes.

b/ Resistance Exercise
This is simply the technical term for weight bearing exercises. This can be a visit to the local gym where you can use a whole variety of machines to stress your muscles or it could be using your own body against gravity such as squats, sit ups etc.

And don't think that older people don't go to gyms….they do and in their droves nowadays as people are starting to realise that they need to look after their own bodies. They are taking responsibility themselves to do this and all credit to them for doing this.

I am seeing more and more over 60s and over 70s visiting their gyms on a regular basis and these people really do look great for their age too. Also they are inhibiting age related ailments at the same time, as they continue to exercise on a regular basis.

c/ Suppleness
We all get stiffer as we age. Some of us will just have stiff joints, others will have sore joints and others may have arthritis itself.

One thing is certain however, and that is that we must continue to move and use our joints daily and also stretch our muscles too, in order to maintain as much movement as possible. If we don't do this, we will end up getting stiffer quicker and probably inducing more joint problems and with it more pain.

Find out more about exercise