Is there a bare minimum level of exercise which will keep you fit? It’s an easy question, but the answer is more complicated.
Everyone responds differently to exercise. What works for friends or family might not work for you. Finding a handy “one-size-fits-all” solution is difficult, yet any “bare minimums” for exercise must involve moving often.
The biggest trap for over-60s is gradually restricting your movement. This usually happens so slowly you don’t notice it. Sometimes there are genuine issues which may cause you to move a little less, whether consciously or unconsciously – for example, there might be injuries or ailments, including arthritis, which slow you down.
One thing we know for sure is lack of movement only makes these issues worse.
Even those suffering from pain or arthritis will benefit from moving regularly within tolerable pain levels. If the pain is too much then a professional assessment and treatment is required – this should also provide a plan to gradually increase your ability to move.
Your fitness depends on many other things too – for example, your diet, whether you are a smoker or non-smoker, and how much alcohol you consume every week.
If we consider a person with a good diet, who is a non-smoker and moderate drinker, then the following might be considered the minimum to stay fit.
There’s no great secret – you must be moving at least half an hour a day to have any chance of building fitness. This movement could be walking, swimming, gardening, cycling, dancing – whatever you like.
For many people, the easiest way to be sure is; walk 30 minutes a day, five days a week at least, at moderate intensity (not too slow but not power-walking, either). And then if you have other interests, such as gardening or swimming or golf, that’s a bonus. If you’re up for trying yoga or Pilates then that would be outstanding.
The other very important thing to add is trying to avoid sitting down too much at any one time. It’s important to get up and about regularly to keep your joints, ligaments and muscles in good shape.
I would also add this brings up an interesting philosophical question. Is living a happy and healthy life just about doing the bare minimum, or can it be more than that? What are the benefits from doing a little bit more?
I would argue that going beyond the bare minimum has enormous benefits for physical and mental wellbeing. And research backs me up on this, with several highly regarded studies espousing the benefits from incorporating higher intensity exercises into the mix.
My personal bare minimum involves exercise at low, medium and high intensities:
Low intensity exercise can be walking, gentle swimming, gardening and so on – for a minimum 30 minutes at least five days per week. Medium intensity exercise is pushing yourself a little harder, an effort between 5.5 and 7 out of 10. Two to three times a week for about 25-45 minutes each time, is ideal.
High intensity exercise is where you ramp it up to an 8.5 out of 10 effort. It’s not for everyone, and it’s recommended you see a health professional first if you are unsure. A high intensity burst of even one to two minutes, three times a week, can give you that fitness edge.
Important information: The information provided on this website is of a general nature and information purposes only. It does not take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. It is not personalised health advice and must not be relied upon as such. Before making any decisions about your health or changes to medication, diet and exercise routines you should determine whether the information is appropriate in terms of your particular circumstances and seek advice from a medical professional.