Staying active

Regular exercise is crucial for staying healthy and looking after your body. It will keep you active for longer and can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes.

Staying fit and active is also good for your mental and emotional well-being and can reduce stress and anxiety. Some of the benefits can include:

  • Increasing your energy levels
  • Maintaining a healthy weight 
  • Sleeping better
  • Maintaining regular bowel movements
  • Stimulating poor appetite
  • Lifting your mood and reduce stress
  • Boosting good cholesterol which decreases your risk of diseases, such as high blood pressure, angina and heart disease
  • Strengthening your muscles and bones and reducing the risk of falls and fractures.

Finding the right exercise for you

It’s important to do activities that you enjoy – which means that not only will you feel happier, but you’ll be more likely to stick to your exercise routine for longer. For example, if you love music, you could attend dance classes or aerobics, which use music for their dance routines. Or if you enjoy being a part of a team, then choosing a sport such as football, rowing or netball may be a good idea.  

You don't have to join a club or a gym to stay active. Just one walk a day can improve your fitness.

 

You could also try one of the following:

  • Be active around the house – cooking, housework and walking while you're on the phone can help keep you mobile 
  • Heavy gardening – including pushing, bending, squatting, carrying, digging and shovelling – can provide a good workout
  • Swimming, aqua aerobics and working out in water are ideal for older adults, because water reduces stress and strain on the body's joints
  • Yoga is suitable for all ability levels - it combines a series of poses with breathing, and is good for building strength, flexibility and balance
  • Tai chi is an ancient Chinese art that builds strength, flexibility and balance through slow and controlled movements
  • Pilates focuses on stretching and strengthening the whole body to improve balance, muscle strength, flexibility and posture.

How much exercise do I need?

To stay healthy, adults should try to be active daily and aim to achieve at least 150 minutes of physical activity over a week through a variety of activities. For any type of activity to benefit your health, you need to be moving quick enough to raise your heart rate, breathe faster and feel warmer. For most people, the easiest way to get moving is to make activity part of your daily routine, including:

  • walking to the shop instead of taking the car or bus
  • using the stairs instead of lifts or escalators
  • doing a regular walk with a friend
  • doing the housework or gardening
  • don't sit down for too long.

 

Aerobic exercise raises your heart rate

If you haven't been very active before, it's never too late to start. You can incorporate activity into your everyday life. Moderate aerobic activity raises your heart rate and makes you breathe faster and feel warmer. Examples might include: 

  • Walking 
  • Water aerobics 
  • Dancing 
  • Riding a bike 
  • Doubles tennis 
  • Pushing a lawn mower 
  • Canoeing

There is good evidence to suggest that more vigorous activity can bring health benefits over and above that of moderate activity. Vigorous activity makes you breathe hard and fast. If you're working at this level, you won't be able to say more than a few words without pausing for breath:

  • Jogging or running
  • Aerobics
  • Swimming fast
  • Singles tennis
  • Football
  • Hiking uphill
  • Riding a bike fast.

Remember to check with your GP before starting a new exercise programme, especially if you haven't exercised for a long time or have an existing health condition.

Strengthening exercises

Even if you’re older or have limited mobility, you may still be able to do some muscle strengthening exercises which can help you build muscle and bone mass, improve balance and help prevent you from falling. There are many ways you can strengthen your muscles, whether at home or in the gym:

  • Carrying or moving heavy loads such as groceries
  • Activities that involve stepping and jumping such as dancing 
  • Exercises that use your body weight for resistance
  • Chair or wheelchair aerobics
  • Lifting weights 
  • Yoga.