Staying fit after 50.

We all know the importance of exercising throughout our lives to maintain and improve our health.  However you may not be aware that exercise becomes even more important as we get older. The good news is that it’s never too late to start!

So why is exercise so important? There is now an increasing amount of strong evidence that shows that people who are active have a lower risk of developing a number of chronic conditions. There is also evidence to suggest that regular exercise can reduce the risk of falls as we get older (NHS 2018).

How will exercise help me?  There are a great many ways in which regular exercise can help us both physically and mentally.

  • Improve/maintain cardiovascular health – physical activity can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 35%.
  • Reduce risk of diabetes – exercise can reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes by 40%.
  • Improve/maintain strength – maintaining muscle strength can help reduce additional loading through the joints and will allow daily activities to be performed without difficulty.
  • Improve/maintain flexibility – movement in and around the joints is important in reducing pain associated with age-related bone changes (osteoarthritis), and maintaining general joint mobility. 
  • Maintain bone density – regular resistance training can help to maintain bone density and delay osteoporosis.
  • Improve mental health – exercise has a range of cognitive benefits and has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression, improve sleep, by reducing mental activity, promoting physical fatigue and assisting sleep patterns.
  • Help to reduce dementia – some studies have suggested that exercise may help to reduce the incidence of dementia.
  • Assists weight loss – exercise helps to burn calories and, along with a healthy diet, can assist with maintaining or achieving a healthy weight, which is vital in the prevention of a number of chronic diseases.

Alongside these physical and mental benefits, regular exercise in later years can also help to prevent falls, increase confidence and maintain hobbies and social connections, all of which contribute to a better quality of life, and with the additional 3-5 years life expectancy that physical activity can bring, it’s important to ensure that we can enjoy those extra years to the best of our ability.

What exercise should I do? Physical activity is anything that raises your heart rate. Current NHS guidelines for adults aged 19 to 64 recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (cycling or brisk walking) every week, and two or more days of strength training, working all the major muscle groups.  Or you could do 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise (running or singles tennis) every week, and two or more days of strength training.  Alternatively a mixture of moderate and vigorous aerobic exercise equating to 150 minutes every week, and two or more days of strength training.

Over the age of 65 the recommendations are the same if you are already fit and active with no underlying health problems.  If you started exercising a little later in life or have any health problems then the recommendations are 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise alongside some strengthening exercises. 

In addition to aerobic and strengthening exercises, it is also important to do activities or exercises that train our balance and co-ordination and flexibility, such as yoga, tai chi, dancing and pilates.

As everyone is unique, everyone’s bodies have different needs and respond differently to activity. If you are struggling to find the right sort of exercise for you, the best thing to do, bearing in mind the NHS recommendations, is pick activities that you enjoy doing, because above all exercise should be fun! For any further help and advice regarding exercise or if you’re struggling with any of the issues mentioned in this article, the team at The Thornbury Clinic are always on hand to provide help and support in the form of Physiotherapy, Sports Injury Therapy and Massage.  We are also holding a free talk at Thornbury Active Lifestyle Centre on Tuesday 27th August at 7pm, where we will be addressing the benefits of staying fit over 50 in more detail.

Megan is the Lead Physiotherapist at The Thornbury clinic. With 12 years experience working in private practice and with professional sports teams and youth athletes, Megan has a wealth of experience treating a wide variety of problems using multiple techniques, including manual therapy, acupuncture, exercise, taping and massage. If you would like to book an appointment with Megan just Click Here!