Exercising at any age: how to build activity into your every day
It’s not just seniors who worry that that exercise could be bad for them – but there are many older Australians who neglect their fitness because they believe they may injure themselves, or think it will hurt, or maybe feel that they simply can’t do it anymore.
For those who have had a fall or illness, this can be more extreme and they might start to retreat into their homes, and then their chairs, to stay safe.
However experts believe that about half the physical decline associated with ageing has nothing to do with getting older. It’s simply caused by a lack of physical activity.
So why aren’t we being more active? Part of this is down to the way ‘exercise’ is presented. Images of exercise often involve trendy young people sweating it out in boot camps – enough to scare off even the most committed.
Part of it is down to us. Often, as family members, we inadvertently encourage this trend: “Don’t get up Mum. I’ll get that for you.” We flutter around our seniors, doing things for them that keep them stationary. What we don’t realise is that everything we do for them takes away another opportunity for them to be more active and independent.
Not everyone is going to turn into Jane Fonda, but we can introduce exercise back into our day in a way that suits us.
It will help to build up fitness and mobility – and wellbeing and confidence will follow.
Where to start
Start small and easy – exercise shouldn’t be hard or scary. Start with small steps and build up slowly. Spend a week doing an activity at one level before adding anything else. Always build up gradually and remember to check with your doctor before embarking on a new exercise routine.
Don’t call it exercise – hiding activity in another purpose is a good way to get moving – and a good way to get someone to do it with you! It could be as easy as, “Let’s walk over to the window so you can show me the view.”
Set achievable goals – start with goals you know you can achieve. Celebrate and think about what the next goal should be. It could be going out for coffee, or taking your grandchildren to the park. Keep track. Keep celebrating. Keep going.
Use everyday activities – the easiest way to cultivate exercise as a habit is to build it into everyday moments. Park just a little bit further away from the shops, so you get to take an extra five steps. If you’ve put the kettle on, do some toes raises while you’re waiting for it to boil. Once this link is made, exercise will be built naturally into your day.
Expect setbacks – progress is never in a straight line. Everyone takes a step back now and again. Don’t let them be discouraged. Keep moving. Tomorrow is a new day!
Retreating into a comfortable chair feels safe. But, in fact, it’s often the start of a decline towards dependence. No matter how old we are, we can always benefit from being a little more active.
Look for the next challenge
Download our booklet of safe, simple exercises to build confidence and stay on your feet – or talk to your doctor or physiotherapist for targeted excises that are safe for you.