If you’re over 60, regular exercise plays a crucial role in maintaining your health and independence and ensuring you have the energy to do more of what you love, like keeping up with the grandkids.
Not only does regular exercise help you maintain an active lifestyle, but it can help to decrease the risk of developing serious conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis, while helping to lift your mood and improve your mental health as well as your immunity.
With all these incredible, life-changing benefits, it’s surprising that everybody isn’t rushing to the gym, and with the new year now upon us, there is no better time to get out there and smash your fitness goals.
However, before grabbing your new gym gear and water bottle and jetting off to the gym there are some important factors to consider in order to stay safe when embarking on your fitness journey, particularly as rising temperatures of the summer months set in.
Physiotherapist Team Leader, Jonathan Nashed with Bolton Clarke, a residential aged care provider, suggests that over 60s “start slow” when it comes to starting a new fitness routine or updating their old one.
“There’s no need to push yourself too hard. Please remember to stay hydrated and seek shade for recovery time. If it’s too hot you can complete some exercises indoors,” he explains.
“Stay safe and start slow, remember exercise can begin with just a 10 min walk each day.”
Fitness Expert and Owner of Stepz Fitness, Sam Waller advises that for over 60s returning to exercise or starting out for the first time, “it is important to choose exercises that activate large muscle groups and provide functional benefits such as walking, cycling, rowing and swimming.”
“It is important not to rush into hard and fast workouts or exercise, instead you should gradually introduce it into your routine with the aim being to exercise 3-5 times per week,” Waller says.
“If long bouts of exercise are too strong, it is also fine to do small spurts to reach these goals. This can include going for a 15 minute walk in the morning and afternoon instead of 30 minutes of exercise all at once.”
Waller understands that “getting started is the hardest part” and reminds would be gym goers that “it’s okay to start off slowly and test out some different routines and exercises”.
“You might find that training with a friend or Personal Trainer helps you to stay motivated and on track,” he said.
“It’s great to have company when training and you can support each other along the way. You just need to work with what feels best for you.
“Likewise, it is also important that you are using the correct technique. Avoiding injury is crucial to a good exercise program so make sure you start slow and build up as you progress.”
Prime Active Fitness Trainer & Clinical Psychologist, Penelope Lane spoke further regarding some of the considerations over 60s need to have in mind when starting an exercise routine in order to ensure “the best possible chance of getting the maximum benefits of being active and reducing our risks of injury and illness”.
Lane suggests that over 60s work their “glutes (bum muscles), hips, and thighs at each workout” as “stronger legs allow for enhanced independence.”
“Improve balance and exercise to reduce the risk of falls. Improve cardiovascular fitness,” she added.
“Work your core muscles and pelvic floor to maintain overall body movement, stability, and good posture, and reduce injuries. Gain muscle strength and endurance. Gain flexibility.”
Before grabbing a pair of dumbbells or jumping on the treadmill, Lane stresses that “it’s essential to warm up the body before a workout.”
“It increases your body temperature to allow for maximum blood flow. It increased the synovial fluid in the joints, ensuring they are well prepared,” she explains.
“The muscle tissues also are well supplied with oxygenated blood, ready for the effort ahead. It also primes your mental and emotional systems, so you get the best out of your workouts for yourself.
“Be mindful of choosing the right exercise intensity for you and the correct resistance strength. Start slowly if you’re just coming back to exercise.
“Start with no weights- body weight is a great choice of resistance strength for beginners and can also be kept in your programs as your progress over time. You can gradually increase the intensity each week (greater size weight, more repetitions or sets).
“Awareness of proper form throughout the workout is very important. Executing each activity using muscles, posture, range of motion, and movements correctly.
“At the end of each session, stretching is crucial to assist with postural balance and recovery. Ensure you have enough time to go through a full range of stretches to increase your flexibility and work towards even reversing injuries.”
When choosing to prioritise your health and fitness, it’s not entirely necessary to do so in the gym. Lane suggests that for fitness enthusiasts in their 60s, “going for a brisk walk is a great go-to when you want to get your body moving in helpful and sustained ways.”
“So you can help with any weight-related issues that have snuck up on you,” she says.
“And then increasing the distance and intensity- walking faster and including a few hills now and then is a great idea. Or maybe even a jog.
“Swimming, low impact aerobics, dancing, vigorous gardening, and cycling are also all good.”
For those starting their health and fitness journey for the first time, the prospect of straining away at the gym or pounding the pavement for a quick jog may seem incredibly daunting, especially if you are starting out later in life.
However, Evolt 360 Education and Performance Specialist, Josh Wrigley states that “just because you are ageing doesn’t mean you won’t get the benefits of exercising”.
“You are never too old to start or get back into the swing of things,” Wrigley says.
His advice for getting going is to “start simple”.
“Every type of exercise has progression the more and more an individual gets comfortable with it,” Wrigley explains.
“There are numerous ways to progress your exercise to ensure you are getting better! Don’t overcomplicate things! This progression will ensure all the beneficial adaptations of exercise as well as ensure proper recovery between sessions.”
Knowing what to do at the gym and how to exercise safely is one thing but getting the motivation to jump off the couch and into the gym is another.
Psychotherapist Eugenie Pepper suggests “using positive habits to get motivated.”
“A tip to get motivated to work out and stay safe as the temperature gets warmer can be to get your hat, drink bottle and walking shoes out the night before so you have a prompt in the morning to get out and go for a walk or go to the gym,” Pepper says.
Pepper recognises that embracing a new health and fitness routine and changing ingrained habits can be tough. Therefore she suggests starting with “small changes that do not require too much motivation or effort to complete but can make a big impact on your life.”
“Small goals are more attainable,” she says.
“A small habit that is simple and easy to do daily, that does not require too much motivation to achieve and can easily become part of a person’s daily routine and are easier for us to turn into habits that can small snowball to support us to achieve and to build up to a larger goal habit.
“Once you get started on a new positive habit or pattern it changes the neural pathways in your brain to keep you going. Creating habits help you reach the desired goals you want.”
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.