We all know the importance of staying as fit and healthy as possible, and while for some, that means swimming hundreds of laps a week, jogging for miles or squeezing into lycra and riding off for hours on end! For most retirees it’s about regular, moderate exercise that gets the heart rate up, and firing the muscles, without putting too much pressure on ageing joints.
Of course, if you haven’t been active, or you have a chronic health condition, it’s important to chat with your doctor before taking up any exercise. In general though, if you follow the rule of starting slowly and listening to your body, then most low-impact exercises should be safe to do.
“Staying physically active is the single most important thing we can do to stay independent,” says Peter Sirr, specialist physiotherapist and Care Assist affiliate. “Research now shows that staying physically active leads to better physical, social and emotional health, whilst reducing the risk of dementia, heart disease and falls.”
So as well as the health benefits, low-stress exercises also have the added benefit of being quite social – even if you are too puffed during the activity to actually chat much, there are plenty of exercises to choose from. The key is to find an exercise that you enjoy, join with a few friends and stay active.
The Commonwealth Department of Health recommends that people over 60 years of age do a range of physical activities that incorporate fitness, strength, balance and flexibility, and should try to fit in a total of at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day. You don’t even need to do the 30 minutes all in one hit – 10 minutes three times a day will still do the trick.
Probably the simplest, cheapest and most social of all activities, all you really need is a pair of good, comfortable shoes with plenty of support, and away you go. Setting up a walking group is always a good idea, as it’s social and reduces the chances of skipping a day. Alternatively you might prefer to take your headphones and favourite music or audio-book. Fixing on a specific destination makes the walk even more enjoyable – cafes are a good option, as long as you don’t eat too many cakes when you get there! Just remember to keep a brisk pace, and stretch out those calves and ankles afterwards.
Swimming and water-activity
Another exercise that needs minimal equipment (except a comfortable swimming pool or beach of course) is aquatics. In a pool, you don’t even need to be a particularly strong swimmer to make the most of this excellent form of exercise. Lap-swimming is the most popular exercise, however it’s not for everyone, and that’s where water-walking and running, kick-boarding and organised aquarobics come in. All are great forms of exercise due to the combined effect of water pressure and coolness on muscles, body buoyancy to reduce joint impact, and the effect of water resistance on your motion through the water.
Tai Chi and yoga
Whether you join a specific yoga or tai chi class, buy some dvds or just check out the plethora of instructional videos online (YouTube has thousands), ‘postural’ exercises pretty much tick all four of the Department of Health’s boxes: fitness, strength, balance and flexibility, with the added bonus of including meditative elements for mental wellbeing. If you’re just starting out, then it’s wise to head to a formal class where an experienced instructor can give you guidance on the appropriate form and posture for your capabilities.
Housework and gardening
Yes, we know that most Active Lifestyle Estates residents have chosen our communities to escape housework and gardening, but for those who are still inclined to enjoy cleaning and pottering in the garden, you’ll be pleased to know that these can still be counted towards your daily exercise if they get your heart rate up. In fact, according to myfitnesspal.com, an hour of moderate cleaning, or 45 minutes of gardening uses as much energy as walking up a hill for half an hour.
Stretching and recovery
After any exercise, it’s important to spend time cooling down and stretching. In yoga, tai chi and guided group exercise, this is usually incorporated in the activity, but if you’ve been for a walk, to the pool or out in the garden, don’t forget to bring the heart rate slowly back to normal. Carefully stretch the muscles and limbs, and drink plenty of water. What better excuse is there to then treat yourself to a nice long shower or relaxing massage?