Look after your mental and physical health - and it’ll look after you.
Don’t worry, we’re not advocating you pick up and run with a rugby ball or take up gymnastics - unless you really want to!
While many of us tend to slow down after middle age, taking up a less physically demanding activity, such as walking, swimming, dancing or golf, has significant health benefits.
Why you should get active
Around two and a half hours’ moderate aerobic exercise each week will not only help to tone your muscles and improve your joint mobility, say, medical experts, it also increases your energy levels over time, helps you sleep better and will improve your cognitive skills.
In the long term, increasing your exercise regime can improve any pre-existing health conditions or help prevent disorders including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and chronic diseases such as heart disease, colon cancer or obesity.
The other good news is that stepping up your exercise levels is beneficial for those suffering from arthritis - and accidental falls are less likely to occur to those with a healthy lifestyle.
Overall, those who remain active in later years are less likely to have to visit the doctor or take prescribed medications - and that is something to make you feel better!
The benefits to your mental health
According to the World Health Organisation, 15% of adults aged over 60 struggle with a mental health disorder.
Looking after your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Staying active is believed to be the best way to protect your mental health and wellbeing.
Retired people who suddenly find themselves with plenty of spare time can often suffer from conditions such as stress, anxiety and depression. Physical activity and exercise can significantly reduce these conditions and release a feel-good chemical called endorphins which improves people’s quality of life.
The good news is that there are plenty of activities from which to choose; dancing, joining a bowling club, pilates classes or even a regular brisk walk in the park can boost self-esteem and make people more positive about their body image.
Exercise can also help older people to retain memory, keep their independence and stay socially connected with others, which will ease the loneliness, sadness and feelings of depression caused by social isolation.
It’s not just physical activity that can help. Add time for relaxation into your daily routine and build a wonderful sense of calm and control. To achieve wellbeing for your mind and spirit, learn to meditate (alone at home, or with led by a teacher with others), practise yoga techniques, take part in Tai Chi classes and learn breathing exercises.
Achieving good mental health will boost self-esteem and self-worth, allowing individuals to live happier lives.
So now we’ve outlined the benefits - and hopefully inspired you to get on your bike (or at least out of the armchair!) here are a few top tips to help you off the starting blocks:
How to stay active and well:
It’s never too late to get fitter. But we’re all different so be realistic about what's achievable and sustainable for you, says Age UK.
Some people are more attracted to sporting activities than others - but there is some form of exercise out there for everyone.
For those who are more physically nimble, activities such as golf, Tai Chi, yoga, swimming, cycling, or power-walking can be highly effective.
Those who are not as able to be involved may consider alternative activities to get them outdoors and moving - for instance, volunteering to help in the community, taking up some light gardening chores, taking a dog for regular walks, joining friends or a walking group for rambles or taking part in a gentle exercise class at a local leisure centre or community hall.
It’s important to:
- Warm up - It takes longer to get your muscles working properly as you get older so always have a light five-minute warm up first with plenty of stretches and maybe a gentle on-the-spot jog.
- Try something different - Change your routine regularly - try short bursts of jogging when you’re walking or add classes into your fitness programme.
- Work your core - As we age our core strength suffers, which can result in bad posture and a sore back, knees and hips. So, make sure you incorporate some core-strengthening exercises.
- Needless to say, it’s important to consult your doctor before embarking on an exercise regime and be advised on any precautions to take, such as wearing the correct footwear and limiting your exercise period to a certain time, usually 20-30 minutes.
With the milder spring weather here and summer, just a short time ahead now is perfect for getting outside and enjoying some healthy activity. Even a stroll after dinner every evening (or after breakfast) will help - and it’s a good excuse to plan a few days out visiting local parks, gardens and the coast if within reach.
Enjoy the great outdoors - you’ll feel the benefits!