Let’s face it, as we age, there’s a temptation to take it a little easier – make things less painful. Instead of carrying heavy bags home from the shop, we do online shopping and have it delivered. We might swap the sports we play from physically demanding ones – and ones in which injuries are a real threat – for slightly more leisurely ones. Football changes to golf and netball to swimming, perhaps.
In other words, we tend to slow down. So much so, that some estimates show that nearly half of the over 50s in the UK do little or no exercise. There are, however, a multitude of physical and mental health benefits for exercising when you hit 50. So even if you’ve never exercised in your life, there’s no reason not to start now. It’s never too late!
Here are a few reasons why you should stay physically active throughout your life.
You Feel Better
It is no myth that the more you exercise, the better you feel about yourself. This is because exercise has shown to boost ‘feel-good chemicals’ in the brain, and helps improve body image.
The link between physical activity and feelings of happiness are partly linked to a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (also known as BDNF). It is credited with stimulating the repair and regeneration of nerve and brain cells and is important for the alleviation of depression and anxiety.
It is now proven that exercise increases the secretion of BDNF, so the more you exercise, the better you should feel.
BDNF is also important for maintaining long-term memory and learning, so the best sharpener for your brain – and to keep your grey matter functioning quickly – might not be a game of Scrabble or a crossword puzzle, but heading to the gym!
As well as the effects of BDNF, there are plenty of evidence showing that keeping fit helps in keeping your wits about you. One of these comes from a study led by University of Alabama, which showed that older adults who engaged in aerobic activities performed better on measures of working memory and fluid intelligence, compared to those engaged in sedentary activities.
Mobility and Strength
Keeping fit will help build muscle and improve joint mobility – as well as increase physical strength and energy levels. It goes without saying that these are all positives.
Maintaining mobility, building muscle strength and having healthy joints mean that you are more unlikely to suffer the pain and aches associated with ageing. There is more than a grain of truth in the old adage of rolling stones gathering no moss.
It might come as a surprise that physical activity is actually a natural remedy to insomnia. Moderate exercise, such as swimming or walking, can help relieve some of the tension built up over the day.
Make sure that you don't do vigorous exercise, such as running, too close to bedtime, though, as it may keep you awake.
Even if you don’t suffer with insomnia, you can use exercise to achieve a more sound and restful sleep. It has now been proven that physical activity increases time spent in deep sleep, the most physically restorative sleep phase. Deep sleep helps to boost immune function, support cardiac health, and control stress and anxiety.
Physical activity really is a magic pill when it comes to preventing illnesses and ailments – especially if you couple exercise with a healthy diet.
There's strong evidence that people who are active have a lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, osteoporosis, depression, Alzheimer’s and dementia.
It can also help with seasonal ailments, such as colds and the flu, as exercise is an effective way of boosting your immune system.
Many people gain weight as they get older – partly because their metabolism slows down. This means that it may require more exercise to maintain your regular weight as you get older, even if you haven’t changed your eating habits.
Exercising helps speed up your metabolism, so when you exercise regularly, your body will burn more calories throughout the day – and not just while you are being active.
Exercise really is a wonder drug and benefits us all at every stage of our life. At 1Life centres we have a range of classes which are suitable for all ages and abilities and a team of qualified fitness professionals who are always on hand to give advice, support and motivation. As well as keeping dry, we have a range of great swimming facilities, golf courses, tennis courts and badminton courts* – all great ways to keep your body and minds active.
For more information about the courses, classes and facilities at your nearest 1Life centres please get in touch.
*Subject to centre and availability