Exercise in your 8th decade

Judith Wills / 04 June 2015

Judith Wills blog about the best ways to enjoy exercise as you get older.



We all know by now - or should do - that exercise is good for us at any age, but is perhaps especially vital as we approach old age (which, as we are living so much longer these days, now doesn't start until at least 80, apparently).

It's been found that our sixties and early seventies (now sometimes called 'late middle age') - provide a 'window of opportunity' to get ourselves fit and in shape for the years to come, even if we've spent a lifetime up until this point being pretty inactive and unfit.

I love the idea of this, as it means all of us who have tended to sit more than stand and have generally led less than active lives for many years can kill the guilt, start afresh and just get on with getting what we have as honed and toned and stamina-rich as we can.

Past research has shown that as we get older we do tend to slow down, give up sports that used to keep us fit and generally prefer the scenery in the sitting room to that at the top of the nearest hill.

Over-65s are frequent gym users 

But I do believe that's changing.  For example, Nuffield Health clubs recently found that over-65s were its gyms most frequent users, and their gym usage peaks at the age of 72, when people visit twice a week on average.

And certainly, on the rare occasions I go swimming, I see mostly people of 60-plus in the water (and before you ask, no it isn't during the senior citizens hour!).   Walking club members appear to major on the 50-plus side of life, dance classes are packed with pensioners, and so on.

So, should you be one of those who has lapsed in the activity department of late, take heart, especially if you're still a youngster not yet in your 8th decade, and get cracking!

Having decided that you will, your only problem now is to make sense of the maze of new research on how best to tackle this. 

How much should you exercise?

Just as with 'what's the best diet?', the 'best' way to exercise yourself fit is a subject of much dispute.  Every week some new research is published backing up every variation of exercise you could imagine as 'the best'.  Short, sharp bursts?  Long, slowish strolls?  Half an hour of moderate pace five times a week?  To sweat?  To get breathless?  In recent weeks all these have been recommended by various studies as 'the best'.

Confusing or what?   My advice is to pay not too much heed to these reports, and instead, do what you fancy doing (if you don't like it you won't have any chance of sticking to it), do it in a sensible fashion (i.e. start carefully/gently and build up as you body gets better at it), and do it regularly.  There's also a lot to be said for variety, so even if you stick to one main thing (e.g. walking or cycling or swimming) try to add one or two other bits and pieces (e.g. hand weights, stretching exercises, hula-hooping) into the mix.

And my last piece of advice is to keep some kind of diary or record of what you do and aim to improve over the months (e.g. a distance done faster, or a workout done for longer, or both). 

All that said - anything you do that involved moving and using your body, is much, much better than nothing at all.

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