Along with being socially active, it’s important we stay physically active as we get older, to ensure we give ourselves the best chance of preventing both physical and mental illnesses. Plus, being active will allow us to lead independent lives for as long as possible.
In this blog post, we explore six ways to stay fit and active, to give us the best chance of leading a long and healthy life.
Prioritize strength training
Regardless of who we are, where we live, or what we eat, we all lose muscle mass and strength as we age through a process called sarcopenia. Unfair, we know.
The issue with losing muscle is that it makes us more susceptible to falls and injuries. That’s why it’s important to ensure we continue to build muscle and get stronger as we age, to help prevent unnecessary injuries. If we do get injured, being strong will allow us to recover quicker.
Strength training is how we build up our strength.
Strength training involves moving against a form of resistance. This resistance could be our own body weight, a weight machine, free weights like dumbbells, or a resistance band.
To experience the full benefits of strength training, it’s important to continually make progress. This means either using heavier weights or increasing the intensity of your workout on a regular basis. This will allow your body and muscles to grow and stay strong.
Vivo is a live and interactive strength training fitness program for everyone over 55 years old that helps individuals maintain strength, mobility, and quality of life as they age. In only two short months, their members experience a 27% increase in their lower body strength and 22% increase in their upper body strength!
At Stitch, we’ve partnered with Vivo to offer our community members complimentary virtual fitness classes to kickstart their strength training journey. Join the TeamVivo Stitch group to be notified of all upcoming events.
If you’re new to strength training, consult your doctor or a fitness coach to make sure it’s the best training program for your individual circumstances.
Get active with friends
The American Heart Association recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of aerobic or cardiovascular (cardio) exercise at least five days a week. You can even split this into 40 minutes of exercise three to four times a week.
What we mean by cardio is movement that gets our heart pumping, elevates our heart rate, and gets us a little (or a lot) sweaty. Think sports such as pickleball, tennis, cycling, hiking, dancing, badminton, squash, jogging, kayaking, walking briskly, swimming, or aqua aerobics. Even movements such as jumping jacks and jumping rope work.
An easy way to make sure we engage in daily cardio is to schedule regular get-togethers with friends that center around being active.
Many Stitch community members find being active with friends far more enjoyable than doing the exercise by themselves. Plus, it gives them an excuse to connect socially with friends, and keeps them accountable on their fitness journey!
While fun when done with friends, cardio is also very beneficial for our health. It circulates blood around the body, helping to excrete waste products such as carbon dioxide and lactic acid and release endorphins to make us feel naturally calmer and happier.
Plus, it helps to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, regulate blood sugar levels, and helps us sleep better, to name but a few health benefits.
So schedule that cardio session with a friend soon!
Try low-impact exercises
While yoga, pilates or walking may be considered low-impact movement activities, by no means do they generate low-impact results.
You may notice that in your 50s and 60s your joints are not as mobile and fluid as they used to be. Yoga in particular can help lubricate joints and stave off issues such as arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Yoga’s slow and measured movements also help strengthen muscles and improve our balance, helping to prevent falls and their resultant injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 36 million falls are reported among older adults each year in the US, resulting in more than 32,000 deaths. Work on strengthening your muscles and improving your balance so you’re not one of the statistics!
You can join a local yoga or pilates class, or enjoy these exercises from the comfort of your home by following YouTube videos.
Social activities with friends and family typically revolve around meeting for coffee or food. While meeting socially is vitally important for our mental health, it doesn’t need to always revolve around food.
The next time you organize a get-together, try incorporating a movement component into your outing. For example, instead of meeting for coffee at a cafe, buy a take-away coffee and walk along the beach, park, or shopping center. Or, if you’re meeting for brunch, suggest a walk afterward!
Also, try organizing or attending activities that allow you to move. Stitch community members regularly organize and attend activities such as rock ‘n’ roll and salsa dance classes, music concerts, and walks in the park, which are fantastic ways to meet others socially while allowing them to be active.
Incidental exercise — which is any activity built up in small amounts over the course of a day — can help us stay active and prevent the detrimental effects of leading a sedentary life. You can think of it as ‘accidental’ exercise.
It’s important to know that incidental exercise should not replace your exercise routine, but complement it.
Examples of incidental exercise that you can easily incorporate into your day:
- Eschew lifts and elevators. Opt for stairs instead
- Walk or cycle to your destination if possible, instead of driving
- If taking public transport, disembark a few stops (or blocks) further from where you need, to give yourself more time to walk to your destination
- Chase your grandchildren in the park or backyard
- Enjoy a leisurely stroll through all the shops in a shopping center
- Do jumping jacks every time a TV commercial appears
- Walk your dog
- Wash your car
- Mow your lawn
Reset your fitness mindset
Many of us fall into the trap of thinking of exercise as a chore. It even becomes an odious task that we go to great lengths to avoid. However, shifting our mindset and our association with exercise can do wonders for us.
The first thing we can do is to focus more on ‘movement’ as opposed to ‘exercise’. Ask yourself, “What gets me moving?” and you’ll notice that options will present themselves to you. The goal is to be more active, so what’s going to get you there? Perhaps it’s walking the dog to begin with, or playing a song at home and dancing in your living room.
The second thing is to “think of movement as an opportunity, not as an inconvenience“. It’s an opportunity to get more active, feel healthier and happier, or socialize with friends. Come up with your own ‘opportunities’ that will keep you in this mindset.
If this is an area you’d like to explore further, read the UW School of Medicine and Public Health’s guide for resetting our fitness mindset. It’s a valuable resource and great place to start.
What have you tried?
The above list of suggestions is by no means a comprehensive list of ways we can look after our physical health, but a great starting point. Leave a comment and let us know if you’ve tried any of the above, or if you have other tips and advice on how to stay fit and active as we get older. We’d love to hear from you!
Image of a woman jumping in air (top of blog post): Photo by Mert Guller on Unsplash