Exercise adds life to your years

It's never too late to start exercise

 

Getting and staying in shape isn’t just a young person’s game. As you get older, regular exercise and physical activity can help you stay healthy, energetic and independent.

 

According to NHS Choices, regular exercise helps you maintain a healthy body weight, keeps your bones strong and prevents or delays heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

Swedish researchers also say that exercise is the main contributor to longevity, adding extra years to your life – even if you start exercising later on in life.

Exercise benefits

However, it’s not simply about adding extra years; it’s about adding life to those years.

Regular exercise improves the health of your heart and lungs, boosts your energy levels and increases your strength and endurance.

Physical activity can have a positive effect if you have a long-term condition, such as heart disease, stroke, cancers, type 2 diabetes, obesity, hypertension and osteoporosis. It can even reduce pain and other symptoms associated with many lifestyle-related illnesses, such as osteoarthritis.

The right kind of exercise can also improve your balance and flexibility and enable you to engage in everyday activities.

Regular exercise also offers an effective way to improve your mental health and wellbeing. It can increase your confidence, relieve feelings of stress and anxiety, improve your memory, help you sleep better and boost your overall mood.

 

Read the physical activity guidelines for Americans

Read more about the health benefits of regular exercise

Find out how to fit aerobic activity into your busy lifestyle 

 

Time to get active

The latest Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans hammer home the message that being physically active is one of the most important actions that people of all ages can take to improve their health.

The guidelines say that for “substantial health benefits” you should do one of the following spaced out throughout the week:

  • At least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activities (for example, fast walking, cycling, raking leaves – anything that raises the heart rate and makes it difficult to talk/sing while you’re doing it).
  • At least 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activities (such as running, walking fast uphill or carrying heavy shopping – where your heart beats even faster and you find it difficult to speak).
  • An equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous activities.

In addition, you should do muscle-strengthening activities using all of the major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week. These include using resistance machines and free weights, such as dumbbells and kettlebells; working out with resistance bands; and bodyweight exercises. They could also include everyday activities, such as carrying shopping bags, digging in the garden and moving furniture.

The guidelines also suggest that older adults should add balance exercises to their physical activities to prevent falls in this age group. Think heel-to-toe walking drills, step ups on unstable surfaces or simply repeated standing from a sitting position.

Exercise snacking

The new guidelines suggest that exercising for shorter periods of time (‘exercise snacking’) can still deliver health benefits. Gone is the  previous 10-minute minimum exercise requirement in order for an activity to count towards your daily goals.

The more relaxed definition of regular activity ties in with common health messages, such as “use the stairs instead of the lift” or “get off the bus a stop earlier”. All smaller periods of activity now count (as long as they make your heart beat faster in the process).

This opens up the exercise landscape to include press ups against the kitchen worktop while the kettle boils, sit-to-stand exercises during the advert breaks on telly and even squats before or after you sit down on the toilet.

If you thought you didn’t have time to exercise, it may be time to think again.