While making time for physical activity can be a challenge, research shows that over 50s who make the effort to exercise are reaping the rewards. A recent study into over 50s by Nature’s Own has found that over a third (34%) of those surveyed feel in better health now than in their younger years.
So how does one start increasing (or taking up) physical activity safely and successfully in their later years?
Here are my favourite tips for exercising in the gym, outside of the gym, and what kind of goals you should set yourself to become a force of nature.
Get fit without leaving the house, no equipment required with these tried and tested exercises:
- Calf Raises
Use a sturdy chair to help you keep your balance whilst holding your arms out in front of your body, and balance on one leg. Then raise up onto your toes lifting your heel as high as you can off the floor, and hold for 3 seconds before slowly lowering to the ground and repeating.
Benefit: Calf strength is important for maintaining normal gait (walking patterns) and reducing the risk of falls.
- Wall Push-ups
This exercise will strengthen your upper body, including your arms, chest and back. Start by having your hands on the wall at shoulder height, then simply bend at the elbows and lower your chest towards the wall whilst maintaining a straight neck and back position. Then push-up gently and feel your muscles contract under the pressure.
Benefit: Building your upper body strength will aid simple, everyday tasks such as getting out of bed or getting up off the floor.
- Chair Squats
- Find a chair with a seat height mid-way between your hips and knees, and definitely no lower than your knee height.
- Use a chair with arm rests if you need support for this one, otherwise, just cross your arms across your chest and then stand up from a seated position off the chair.
- Stand about 30cm away from the chair edge and stick your bottom out as far back as you can, lowering yourself towards the seat. Instead of sitting down, tap the chair and quickly stand back up. This will improve the strength of your glutes.
Benefit: Chair squats will help with getting in and out of the car as well as low chairs and couches.
Keen to get into the gym but feeling a little daunted by all the machines? Try these below tips to help make the process a little easier!
Most gyms offer an initial assessment where a qualified trainer or even an exercise physiologist can guide you through a basic exercise program to suit your needs, so make sure you take advantage of this! Following that initial assessment, try these exercises on for size:
- Cardiovascular exercise – use a bike, cross-trainer, stepper or treadmill for at least 10-20 minutes per session to warm up and cool down
- Machine weights – build your confidence slowly by starting with select machines and low weights that enable you to complete multiple repetitions. As you build your strength over time, increase the weight in small increments.
- Opt for an upright chest press/bench press machine which is pin loaded and easily adjustable for your height and comfort. Then select an appropriate weight that will allow you to perform at least 10-15 repetitions for 2-3 times.
- Similarly, choose at least 1-2 back exercises where you can perform several repetitions in multiple sets. Try a seated rowing machine (which requires pulling handles towards your body) or a lat pulldown machine (which requires pulling the weight down towards your collar bone and back up above your head.)
- Free weights – choose light to moderate free weights for some simple bicep curls or shoulder press exercises above the head, recommended to maintain optimal strength in the upper body for daily functioning.
Set your fitness goals. Whether you’re working out at home or in the gym, try and aim for the below targets initially so you can monitor your improvements!
- Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity most days of the week, regardless of age, weight or abilities. After all, the benefits of exercise are unlimited!
- Although the benefits of aerobic training are well documented, it’s now known that resistance training offers a wealth of unique benefits – especially when it comes to bone mineral density and maintaining lean body mass. Incorporating a range of activities including exercises for strength, balance and flexibility, is the ideal way to go.
- Lastly, start by limiting your sitting time and increasing your overall daily movement – be that walking somewhere that you would usually drive, or taking the long way home. For motivation, try using a pedometer or an app on your smart phone to monitor your daily activity, aiming to take about 10,000 steps per day.
Share your thoughts below.
Authored by Nature’s Own Exercise Physiologist and Dietitian, Kate Save