4 ways to help keep you ‘active, mobile, and feeling great’

Beautiful fit senior couple in gym working out, doing push ups, exercise

Image: HalfPoint/Bigstock.com

We all know exercise is important for good health. Unfortunately, most Australians aged 55-64 don’t exercise or exercise only in a limited way.

The statistics tell the story with more than a third (37.1 per cent) of 55- to 64-year-olds being sedentary and another third (33.5 per cent) only doing low levels of physical exercise.

Then there’s another problem a recent Harvard Health Letter points out. Those who exercise tend to limit themselves in the types of exercise they do, which means they don’t gain the best benefits from exercise. What the health letter says we need to do is four types of exercise to keep ‘active, mobile, and feeling great’.

The four are these:

  • Aerobic exercise
  • Strength training
  • Stretching
  • Balance exercises

Of course, you may want to check with your doctor before you begin an exercise program.

1. Aerobic exercise

This is exercise that raises your heart rate and breathing, giving your heart and lungs a good workout.

‘If you’re too winded to walk up a flight of stairs,’ says Rachel Wilson, a physical therapist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, ‘that’s a good indicator that you need more aerobic exercise to help condition your heart and lungs, and get enough blood to your muscles to help them work efficiently.’

The aim is to do 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity. That could be brisk walking, swimming, jogging, cycling, dancing or classes like step aerobics.

2. Strength training

Ageing brings with it a loss of muscle mass. Strength training builds it back. ‘Strength training will also help you stand up from a chair, get up off the floor, and go up stairs,’ says Wilson.

Strengthening your muscles will make you stronger, but it also: stimulates bone growth; lowers blood sugars; assists with weight control; improves balance and posture; and reduces stress and pain in the lower back and joints.

You may need to find a trainer or a gym that can design a strength training program that you can do two to three times a week. It will probably include body weight exercises like squats, push-ups, and lunges, and exercises involving resistance from a weight or a band.

‘Remember, it’s important to feel some muscle fatigue at the end of the exercise to make sure you are working or training the muscle group effectively,’ says Wilson.

3. Stretching

Ageing leads to a loss in flexibility in muscles and tendons. That increases the risk of muscle cramps and pain, muscle damage, strains, joint pain, and falling. It also makes it difficult to do simple things like bending down to tie your shoes.

Stretching the muscles routinely makes them longer and more flexible, which increases your range of motion and reduces pain and the risk for injury.

The aim is to have a program of stretching at least three or four times a week. It’s a two-step process: warming up your muscles with a few minutes of repetitive movement such as marching in place or arm circles. That gets blood and oxygen to the muscles.

Then it’s time for stretches and holding a stretch position for up to 60 seconds for the calves, the hamstrings, hip flexors, quadriceps, and the muscles of the shoulders, neck, and lower back.

‘However, don’t push a stretch into the painful range. That tightens the muscle and is counterproductive,’ says Wilson.

4. Balance exercises

Improving your balance makes you feel steadier on your feet and helps prevent falls. It’s even more important as we get older when our vision, our inner ear, and our leg muscles and joints tend to break down.

‘The good news is that training your balance can help prevent and reverse these losses,’ says Wilson.

Many gyms offer balance-focused exercise classes. It’s never too early to start this type of exercise, even if you feel you don’t have balance problems.

Typical balance exercises include standing on one foot or walking heel to toe—sometimes with your eyes closed. Joint flexibility, walking on uneven surfaces, and strengthening leg muscles with exercises such as squats and leg lifts will help. However, there is a warning: make sure you have proper training before attempting these exercises at home.

For more on the exercise program, go here.

Fitting in exercise may be difficult, but it seems a small price to pay to be active, mobile, and feeling great.

Bruce Manners, author of Retirement Ready? and Refusing to Retire.

Category: Physical Health

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