A 2015 study shows people with higher activity levels and physiological fitness have a lower mortality risk. But what if you’ve not done much exercise before? Is it worth starting later in life? Short answer: Yes. Turning 60 doesn’t mean it’s too late to start exercising.
To help you start and maintain a healthy exercise routine, here are a few steps to help you start exercising at 60+.
Do something you enjoy
When exercising, don’t fall into the trap of starting something solely because you’ve heard you should do it. If you hate running, don’t run. Start with activities you like doing.
You’ll always gravitate to what you enjoy most. Think about the physical activities you like doing. If walking is an activity you enjoy, start with that. If you’re a fan of beach holidays, perhaps swimming is a good option.
By starting with the beaten path of things you already like, you’re on your way to a habit, you can maintain.
Commit to a plan you can stick to
When you start exercising, look at your diary and confirm times and durations you can commit to week in, week out.
When starting out, the best way to develop this healthy habit is to build on small wins. If you can only exercise for 20 minutes twice per week, fabulous. Block those dates and time slots in your calendar and make them appointments you don’t miss.
By committing to times that you can attend consistently, you’ll build a healthy, sustainable habit.
Log your progress and reward your successes
A common error people make is to compare themselves with more advanced exercisers when they’ve only just started. You’ve just decided to start exercising – reward yourself for sticking to it.
As you mark off the sessions you’ve completed on your calendar, set small benchmarks and reward yourself when those goals are achieved.
Jerry Seinfeld was once asked what his process is for writing jokes. He has a large desk calendar in his kitchen, and each day he writes jokes, he marks a large red “X” on the date in the calendar. The key is not to break the chain of x’s.
To add to this strategy, decide at the start what you’ll do every month you complete your exercise sessions. Mark that event in the same calendar you commit to your exercise. This way, you can see the progress you’re making. You can also see an incentive for those days when your motivation wanes.
Benefits of starting exercise at 60+
Reduced risk/discomfort of chronic diseases
By starting exercise at 60 or above, you can reduce the risk of chronic diseases and the impact of these conditions.
Reduced arthritis pain. While exercise can’t eliminate arthritic pain, it can help alleviate the pressure on your joints. Regular exercise can help reduce arthritis pain by building muscle tissue around the joints. This helps to improve the joint’s overall support system, thereby taking pressure off the joint itself.
Reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and reduced deterioration of cognitive function and memory. According to an ongoing University of Wisconsin study comparing groups under and over 60, those over 60 showed an increased risk of Alzheimer’s and a decline in cognitive function and memory.
However, these risks were greatly decreased among those over 60 who reported moderate exercise for 30 minutes five times weekly.
Decreased fall risk
As you get older, one of the unfortunate side effects is skeletal muscle loss (sarcopenia). According to Jeremy Walston in Current Opinion of Rheumatology, Sarcopenia can start in your 40s. It can progress linearly to the point where you’ve lost 60% of your skeletal muscle in your 80s.
You need to preserve skeletal muscle for various reasons, including weight management. But skeletal muscle is also vital for helping you stay stable on your feet as you age. If skeletal muscle loss isn’t addressed, you’ll run a greater risk of falling as you age, which can lead to catastrophic consequences.
When you exercise using your full body in activities like walking, swimming, and full-body resistance training, you cause your body to adapt by physically challenging it. This adaptation leads to a more stable physical foundation as the muscles that complete these activities must strengthen.
Think of regular exercise as ‘future-proofing’ your body. By starting now, you’ll help your body become more stable, so as you age, you will be confident and stronger on your feet.
When you exercise regularly, your body will adapt to the new challenges you’re asking it to respond to.
Increased activity will cause you to breathe a little bit deeper and heavier. While initially this may feel uncomfortable, by challenging your body this way, it will adapt, and you’ll breathe more effectively as a result.
When you breathe more effectively, you will become better at sending oxygen out to the rest of your body. This will help you feel more energetic as you go about your day.
Better daily movement
You always improve at what you practice, and movement is no different. As you get older, unfortunately, the natural inclination is to move less. When you move less, your muscles will shorten, and you lose the dexterity and flexibility you had when you were younger.
By encouraging your body to move more regularly, you’ll stretch out muscles that would normally shorten if you weren’t moving around as much. By consistently adding exercise into your weekly routine, you’ll notice an immediate improvement in completing daily activities – for example, getting out of a chair. This is because the muscles required to complete these tasks will be more flexible and thus more capable.
The decision to start exercising now, regardless of age, will help you build a secure foundation to live the way you want for longer.
Regular exercise will allow you to stave off the inevitability of ageing. This means you can maintain your independence and live how you want for longer.
Maintaining fitness through regular activity enables you to perform activities of daily living. Whether it’s cleaning, shopping, or even laundry, by maintaining your health through regular physical activity, you’ll have the strength and stability to continue doing these things to remain independent.
James Staring is the founder and lead fitness coach at Fit to Last Personal Trainers.
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