When it comes to exercise, it is never too late to get started – but the sooner you get active, the sooner you will feel the benefits and the easier it will be to keep going long-term. With this in mind, this week I will be covering my top tips for exercising at any age, depending on your goals.
1) To Lose Weight or Get Toned
While exercise can certainly help in this area, there is no denying that nutrition is key – not just for weight loss, but for general health and disease prevention – so getting serious about what nutrients you put into your body is a great start.
Strength training is about so much more than bulking up. Over time your muscles lose their strength, so strength training can help to preserve muscle mass which will help you stay toned as you get older. Muscle also helps you burn calories, so it is just as important for weight loss as cardio-vascular exercise. Learning the gym basics – exercises like squats, lunges, and push-ups) – in your twenties will stand you in excellent stead, but you can benefit from strength training whatever age you start. For example, women in their 40s tend to do extremely well with strength training.
Focus on your core
Strengthening your core muscles will help with your strength training, but will also work wonders as you get older by helping take some of the pressure off your spine.
This is the best way to burn calories quickly – and it will be considerably easier if you are having fun doing it. Pick a class activity like Zumba, or water aerobics if you are looking for low-impact exercises.
2) To Boost Your Physical Health
This is the most important aspect of any exercise regime, making it part of everyday life. Make an effort to do some physical activity every day. This does not need to mean hitting the gym, it can simply be choosing to take the stairs rather than the elevator, but making light physical exertion part of your routine will help to make it feel like less of a chore. Most importantly, if you have a job which is largely sedentary, be sure to get up and walk around at regular intervals, taking time to stretch your upper body.
All of the exercises mentioned under losing weight will help boost your physical health, but even simple things like walking regularly can have a huge impact. Walking strengthens your bones, improves your cholesterol, helps you maintain healthy blood pressure and lowers the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Over time it can even help to improve your memory, as well as boosting your mood.
3) To Boost Your Mental Health
There is an indisputable link between physical and mental health. Aside from the positive chemicals released during exercise, daily physical activity can help you feel like you have accomplished something. The best way to maximise this positivity is to set yourself measurable goals – walk 2 miles, do a certain number of reps with a particular weight, lose 3 pounds – and to give yourself realistic time limits within which to achieve them. This is key to any fitness journey, but can be particularly helpful when coping with mental illnesses such as depression.
As you get older, hormone changes can lead to severe mood swings and sometimes these coincide with certain physical activities becoming less open to you. Swimming has been proven to improve your mood and can be done at almost any stage of life. The buoyancy of the water means it is low-impact which makes it perfect for people with arthritis or joint pain.
Another activity open to people of all ages, Tai Chi is low-impact and involves a series of slow, deliberate movements. Sometimes known as “Meditation in Motion”, Tai Chi requires you to be aware of your body and its capabilities. It is good for both the body and the mind and has been shown to help with relaxation, balance, and sometimes even pain relief.
4) To Help with Chronic Pain
Along with Tai Chi and Swimming, Yoga is another great, gentle form of exercise you can practise, even if you suffer from chronic pain such as fibromyalgia. Opt for Hatha yoga – the gentlest form – which involves a series of postures, breathing, and meditation. Hatha yoga has been shown to reduce some of the physical and psychological symptoms of chronic pain, helping some patients become more mindful and accepting of their condition.
A great activity to do, whatever your situation, stretching should always be done to cool down, rather than to warm up. It can increase flexibility, loosen up tight or sore muscles, and improve your range of motion. For people who suffer chronic pain, stretching can help you tolerate both other exercise and even everyday movements.
When you suffer from chronic pain, it can often seem like too much to engage in normal daily life, but doing things like playing with your kids or grandkids, gardening, or doing light housework can actually help to relieve your stiffness, pain, and fatigue over time, as well as boosting your general quality of life.