We often think that as we get older we will inevitably have to accept that we will be limited by ill health, aches and pains. Whilst it is true that our bodies change we are often more able than we think. More and more people are taking up sport and exercise at a later age and are surprising themselves with what they can achieve.
In a recent study of 3500 people one in ten people, aged 64 on average, took up regular exercise. The effects on health and disability were amazing. People who started doing even moderate activity at least once a week were three times less likely to have developed a nasty illness or disability over the eight year study. Those that had always been active and stayed that way were seven times less likely to be ill.
Interestingly the study found that not only the expected illnesses were less likely in the active group but mental health was too. So heart disease, stroke and diabetes were less likely but also Alzheimer’s disease, depression and cognitive function overall was better. Although this study did not look at back pain or other bone and joint problems specifically other research has noted benefits here too.
So the message is clear – if you are active already – stay active. If you are inactive – get active.
The British Chiropractic Association has produced some simple exercises to improve strength and flexibility. The Straighten Up campaign is a series of easy exercises you can do at home in a few minutes. If you do these three to four times a week or ideally every day you will notice differences in you abilities in two weeks.
If you fancy something a bit more vigorous then running, tennis and cycling and swimming might be more your thing. These sports are wonderful for endurance and improving cardiovascular health. In fact anything that gets you heart pumping and gets you a bit out of breath is good. Golf is great but you might want to consider something more vigorous.
If you want to try something a bit different then consider a martial art. Something like tai chi which you learn in small classes as well as doing at home can be fun. This works on balance and strength as well as flexibility. Even more vigorous martial arts like karate can be done until well into old age. It is all about being young of heart rather than limiting your options.
Go on – give something new a try. I took up karate a year ago and love it. It is marvellous for balance, strength and flexibility as well learning new things I never thought I could do. To learn more about a great local karate club in Brighton go here.
There are more tips here for staying active when you are older.
M. Hamer, K. L. Lavoie, S. L. Bacon. Taking up physical activity in later life and healthy ageing: the English longitudinal study of ageing. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2013; DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2013-092993