To make the most out of a well-earned retirement it is important to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle.
There are countless studies linking exercise to a lower risk of various diseases and conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, depression, hip fractures and dementia. It can even decrease the risk of all-cause mortality by 30 percent. Despite this, the majority of adults, particularly those in 65 and over age bracket, are not getting the recommended amount of exercise per week.
Government guidelines advise aiming for 150 minutes of moderate activity or, if you are already active, 75 minutes of vigorous activity every week, ideally a little every day when possible.
For even greater health benefits, you can increase the amount of time spent exercising to 300 minutes of moderate activity or 150 minutes of vigorous activity.
Moderate activity could include any of the following:
- Fast paced walking
- Riding a bike on a flat surface
- Water aerobics
- Ballroom dancing
- Mowing the lawn
- Tennis doubles
Vigorous activity could include any of the following:
- Riding a bike faster or on hills
- Swimming laps
- Jumping rope
- Tennis singles
- Hiking up hill
Not sure if you’re working at a moderate or vigorous intensity? Try talking. At a moderate intensity, you should be able to talk but not sing. At a vigorous intensity, you will probably not be able to say more than a few words without pause.
If you do little or no exercise, it is recommended that you start at a moderate intensity and build up to a more vigorous intensity if and when able.
Include strength training
In addition to aerobic exercises, the guidelines also advise incorporating two or more sessions of strength training every week. These should work all of the body’s muscles, including the legs, hips, chest, back, abdomen, shoulders, and arms.
Strength training could include any of the following:
- Heavy gardening
- Weight lifting
- Carrying heavy loads
- Climbing stairs
- Exercises such as sit-ups and planks, which use your body weight to build up strength
Chose the right exercise for you
Staying fit and active as we get older can be made particularly difficult by medical problems and chronic disease, and so it is especially important to find the right activity for you.
Someone who finds walking and standing difficult, for example, might want to try chair exercises. Water aerobics can be a good option if you suffer from arthritis and joint pain. Alternatively, you may enjoy the social benefit of joining an exercise class or a running club.
People at high risk of falling are advised to add in exercises that improve balance, for example yoga, tai chi or dance. This can reduce your risk of falling if completed at a moderate intensity for 90 minutes a week. The guidelines also recommend older adults at risk of falling add in a third strength training session and spend an hour walking at a moderate intensity every week.
Integrate activity into your daily routine
It is also important to remember that staying active doesn’t stop when you step outside the gym. Try to limit the amount of time you spend sedentary throughout the day and incorporate activity into your routine. This can be achieved through regular walking breaks and reducing the amount of time spent in front of the television.
Other ways to add in some extra movement could involve:
- Walking (not driving) to the shops
- Playing with grandchildren
- Using the stairs (not the lift or escalators)
- Doing the household chores
- Visiting museums, garden centres, shopping malls, and parks
Physical activity guidelines for older adults on NHS Choices: https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/physical-activity-guidelines-for-older-adults.aspx
Chapter 5: Active older adults on Health.gov: https://health.gov/paguidelines/guidelines/chapter5.aspx
Chapter 7: Additional considerations for some adults: https://health.gov/paguidelines/guidelines/chapter7.aspx
Myths about exercise and older adults on WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/features/exercise-older-adults#1