Nobody can deny the endless benefits both physically and mentally of taking regular exercise and maintaining an active lifestyle when it comes to fighting the effects of ageing; from reducing the risk of heart disease and strokes to cancers and diabetes, there’s never been a better time to get out there and get moving.
Unfortunately, it seems the older we get the less active we become – according to figures from the Department of Health only 40% of men and just 28% of women achieve the recommended level of physical activity per week. The over 70s age group fares even worse, shockingly research has highlighted that 44% of adults within this age category don't even take a 20 minute walk once a year.
With exercise being the secret to a happy and healthy life, we’re going to take a look at just how much you need to do to make a difference to your health – you could be pleasantly surprised!
Everyone’s targets will differ slightly depending on their current fitness and physical activity levels but slow and steady wins the race here and any lifestyle changes should be introduced gradually over time to reap the benefits.
If you are starting from scratch, your main target should simply be to move more! Any amount of physical activity is an improvement on none and your body will need time to adjust to the increase. Start with a simple walk around your neighbourhood, getting off the bus one stop earlier or taking the stairs instead of a lift – all these changes soon add up.
Once you’ve got used to the increase in activity and you feel comfortable doing so, you can look at picking up the pace and extending your periods of activity, working towards meeting more specific exercise targets.
The Government goal is 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity on at least five days of the week. Put simply – anything that gets your heart pumping and you slightly out of breath, so think walking, swimming, cycling, tennis, jogging, dancing – even gardening is a great form of activity.
It is also advised that resistance training is carried out twice a week to build muscle strength. This doesn’t mean gruelling weight training sessions at the gym, but simply lifting light weights or shopping bags, attending a yoga or pilates class, or digging in the garden are all ways to smash those exercise targets.
If that sounds a little daunting all in one stretch then break it down in to a few sessions throughout the day. A recent study by a Chinese university showed that doing three 10-minute workouts a day is just as effective as exercising for 30 minutes straight. These so-called ‘micro-workouts’ are brilliant at improving heart health, endurance, and burning fat.
Achieving these targets doesn’t always have to be through formal exercise though and can easily be achieved without making a conscious effort to exercise at all – don’t underestimate what a great work out cleaning the house, gardening or playing with the grandchildren can be!
With studies showing improvements in balance, strength, posture, blood pressure, endurance, bone density and life expectancy as a result of regular physical activity, there’s never been a better reason to get active. It can be all too easy to put up ‘barriers’ when it comes to exercising such as aches and pains, a lack of time and energy, or reluctance to join a new group. However, addressing these ‘barriers’, stepping outside your comfort zone and trying something new could be the best thing you ever did and drastically improve your quality of life.
The great thing about exercise is it’s never too late to improve your health and fitness. Sedentary people can make huge gains and fast with just a few small changes to their lifestyle. With so many forms of exercise to choose from you’re bound to find one to suit you. Whatever you choose, it’s important that you enjoy it to ensure you stick to your new lifestyle change. If you struggle with motivation, enlisting the help of a friend as your exercise buddy or signing up for a new class can work wonders at not only keeping you on track but also boosting your social life.
Remember, exercise isn’t a quick fix and is something that needs to remain consistent in your day-to-day routine for you to really start seeing the benefits. Choosing activities which you enjoy will mean working out doesn’t feel like a chore and you have fun along the way.
If you’re looking for help, advice, support or someone to help get you started, 1Life’s team of experienced and qualified PTs and fitness coaches is a great first port of call.