Exercise – we know it’s good for us, we know we should be doing it regularly, but did you know that staying active is essential for ageing well and staying in good health later in life?
Being physically active is essential throughout life for good health. Staying active as we get older helps to maintain independence, prevent chronic disease, ensure healthy body mass, maintain emotional health and cognitive function.
The benefits of regular exercise
Regular exercise has benefits for many areas of our health including:
- Bone health – weight bearing exercise is important in preventing osteoporosis and improves our balance and coordination, reducing the risk of falls and fractures as a result of falling.
- Muscle health – sarcopenia is a (usually age-related) decline in muscle mass which leads to a decline in muscle strength. Its impact on our health ranges from difficulty performing everyday tasks, to an increased risk of chronic disease such as type 2 diabetes.
- Heart health – The benefits of exercise for cardiovascular health include decreasing LDL-cholesterol and increasing HDL-cholesterol, maintaining healthy blood pressure and decreasing resting heart rate.
- Metabolic health – many areas of health are affected by what’s known as metabolic syndrome. By keeping active we can maintain metabolic health with a healthy waistline, decreasing blood triglycerides, and cholesterol decreasing insulin resistance and decreasing inflammation.
- Mental health – getting older and moving into a different stage of life can be challenging and may affect our emotional wellbeing. Regular exercise helps to boost the production of serotonin and endorphins, which are feel good brain chemicals and function to ‘lift’ mood.
What type of exercise is best?
There are essentially two types of exercise: aerobic and resistance.
Aerobic or cardio exercise involves activities that get the heart going and your breathing rate up to meet the body’s increased demand for oxygen. Running, swimming, cycling and walking are examples of this type of exercise.
Resistance or strength training involves activities that build muscle strength and work against an opposing force. Lifting weights, weight machines, Pilates, and exercise with resistance bands are all resistance ad strength building activities.
Your current health will determine if you need one or the other, or both, and which type is better to start with. For example, if your muscle strength isn’t so great and needs to be improved, it’s best to start with some strength training before you get started on cardio so that you aren’t at risk of a fall when your balance isn’t quite right.
For most people, a combination of both aerobic and resistance training will provide a broad range of health benefits. It will also help to keep your routine varied and more interesting, meaning you’re likely to stay motivated to keep moving.
How much exercise is enough?
The National Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults recommends:
- Think of movement as an opportunity, not an inconvenience.
- Older people should do some form of physical activity, no matter what their age, weight, health problems or abilities
- Put together at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days
- Older people should accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days
If you’re not already exercising regularly, it’s a must that you consult with your healthcare professional before you get started on a new routine, especially if you do suffer from any health conditions that mean certain exercises should be avoided.
Enlisting the help of a personal trainer is also great when getting started as they can help make sure that you are working within your capabilities and tailor a program to suit your needs.
And keep it fun. Getting and staying fit does not have to mean slogging away in a gym! Do activities that you enjoy and make it social by exercising with friends or joining a group activity.