Department of Health figures show that only 17% of men and 13% of women over 65 are sufficiently active. Other research shows that over 40% of adults over 70 take a 20 minute walk less than once a year, or never.
Bob Laventure, a consultant at the British Heart Foundation says that so much “untrained reserve” makes it possible for predominantly sedentary people to make huge gains, and fast. An example of this is one study of a 90 year old at a nursing home found that 12 weeks of strength training took the equivalent of 20 years off her thigh muscle age, resulting in improved walking and mobility.
Research from Harvard University found that men who burned 2,000 calories a week through exercises lived on average two and a half years longer than sedentary men. Exercise also has important benefits more mental health and well-being.
There are many perceived barriers for older people exercising, such as:
- Less interest in getting active and sweaty
- Painful joints
- Shortness of breath
- Less encouragement and role-models
- Lack of energy
- Possibility of falling
A recent paper in Age and Aging says “shortness of breath may be interpreted by older people as a symptom of disease rather than a normal response to physical activity. Similarly, patients with osteoarthritis may need reassurance that physical activity can be beneficial and may alleviate painful joints”.
The best exercise you can do is:
- Consistent – to get the most benefits, you need to keep up similar exercises to really feel the rewards.
- Aerobic, such as brisk walking, swimming or even cycling. Strength and balance training is also helpful.