Keep fit: tips and tricks to stay active as you age  

Reaching your later years might mean having to slow down a little, but that doesn’t mean that fitness has to become a thing of the past.

It’s key for older adults to keep themselves moving. The benefits include greater mobility, flexibility and balance, not to mention the part it plays in preventing diabetes, obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s.

The prospect of exercise can be a frightening thought, particularly if we haven’t got the energy, speed and agility that we once had. But the truth is that you have the freedom to exercise at your own pace and do the activity you enjoy most. It doesn’t have to be a chore that leads to exhaustion. The key is to find out how much exercise your body can take and finding the balance between challenging yourself and not pushing your body outside of its ability.

How to stay active safely

  • Get medical clearance: Begin by speaking to your doctor about how much exercise they’d recommend for you. If you have any health conditions, they will talk you through what you should avoid and how much is too much when it comes to exercise. A medical professional will also suggest how you can work it around other important activities that maintain health and wellbeing. Perhaps you need to adjust the timing of medication and meal plans when setting an exercise schedule?
  • Start slow and build up steadily: Try spacing out workouts in ten minute increments a few times a day. Or try just one class each week. Consider how much that has stretched you and make a judgement on when you feel ready to build on that. Having a clear schedule will encourage you to exercise at the frequency you intend to.
  • Work your arm muscles: Twice a day, use bottles of water as weights. You can fill the bottle to whatever level you like, so you’re in complete control over how strenuous it is.
  • Do balance exercises: Yoga and tai chi classes help you gain a sense of balance, which can help prevent falls. But simple things you can do at home can have the same effect – try standing on one foot (while holding onto the wall if you’re concerned about falling) or walking sideways.
  • Listen to your body: Exercise should never hurt or make you feel worse. Stop exercising immediately and call your doctor if you feel dizzy or short of breath, develop chest pain or pressure, break out in a cold sweat, or experience pain. And put your routine on hold if a joint is red, swollen, or tender to the touch. If you regularly experience pain or discomfort after exercising, try exercising for less time but more frequently throughout the day.
  • Experiment with mindfulness: Instead of zoning out when you exercise, try to focus on how your body feels as you move: the rhythm of your breathing, the way your feet strike the ground, your muscles flexing. You’ll improve your physical condition faster, help relieve stress and anxiety, and be less likely to have accidents or injuries.

It can be difficult taking extra care of your health and wellbeing as you age, given that there are a range of signs to look out for. Exercise is one thing within your control that you can do to keep your health in check. Whatever your age and capability, make keeping fit a priority – it might even become a source of enjoyment!

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