Strength in numbers: Having a social group who exercise can be a boost for healthy ageing. Stock Image
So here we are, the final instalment of my Fit After 50 series. It has been a great five weeks so far, getting to focus on a sector of society that are often forgotten about when it comes to healthy advice. The reality is that as you get older, your health, fitness and motivation are crucial to how you age, your quality of life and your mood.
I meet incredibly inspirational over 50s every week – recently I met an 85-year-old woman who does a weight-bearing exercise routine five days a week, walks 30 minutes a day and embraces life because of it!
The purpose of this series was to make health and fitness accessible, to make it seem doable and easy to start.
From an exercise perspective, vigorous is the key word. You want to be hitting your ‘talk test point’, where you’re getting out of breath but still able to hold a conversation. In relation to food, quality is the key word, eating plenty of colour and lean proteins too.
In today’s column, I thought I would address some of the barriers people face in getting fit and healthy in their 50s and beyond and see if I can give you ways to get around them.
I am too stiff and sore to exercise
As the body ages, it will stiffen up. If you are sedentary as you age, it will stiffen up. By doing less exercise, unfortunately it will stiffen up too. Your body needs movement and when it doesn’t get that movement, it isn’t happy. Walking is fantastic for your body, can be done at your pace and will help you loosen up, especially your back. Pilates and yoga are also fantastic and gentle as well. Just remember, the less you do, the stiffer and sorer you become, so start with something small and build it up as you get fitter and looser.
It’s just too expensive to be healthy
Health can have a bad name for being expensive but the reality is quite the opposite. In terms of food, just take a look at how much vegetables and fruit you can buy for ¤20 in a supermarket. Lean meat and eggs are great value too. When it comes to exercise, look around you at what’s on your doorstep. I am forever mentioning walking, but what about hill walking up in the mountains? Free exercise machines are popping up all around the country too. Many gyms and community centres have great deals for people in their 50s and beyond. The value is there – you just have to be willing to make that first leap!
I am afraid to try a new class as I don’t know anyone
Sometimes as you get older, for one reason or another you can have a smaller circle of friends. Exercise classes can provide a great way to meet new people who are in the exact same position. Having a social group and making friends who are healthy can be a crucial component of healthy ageing and one that is so often neglected. So fear not, most people in that exercise class are in the exact same position as you are too!
I never exercised when I was younger so I don’t think I can exercise now
Now is the best time to exercise! You have so much to gain. Regardless of your past activity levels, you can get so much benefit from exercising at any point in your life. You will feel better, healthier, firmer, younger, and happier from simply moving. Just find an activity that works best for you and start easy, building up your exercise over time slowly but surely. If you want to maintain muscle and lose weight as you age then you need to do some resistance training.
It’s too hard – whenever I start exercising, I find it too tough
This simply means that you are trying to do too much too soon. You need to start with smaller goals and smaller targets and then build them up gradually each week and month, but gradual improvements is the goal, not large leaps.
These are just some of the reasons people feel they can’t exercise as they get older. I am sure you see some of those reasons in your own life. The reality is that unless medically advised not to exercise, there is little or nothing you can’t do.