Is there an age when exercise becomes bad for you, risky or inappropriate?
At what age does it become bad, too risky or inappropriate for you to exercise?
In my opinion the answer is there is no age beyond which exercise should not be attempted!
I may be biased having worked in the world of exercise all my life and coming from an active family but my opinion is backed up by recent research and national recommendations.
The current government recommendation for those aged over 65, is
1. To be active daily
2. To accumulate 150mins weekly of ‘moderate intensity activity’ in bouts of at least 10mins at a time
3. To exercise twice weekly for strength, flexibility, balance and co-ordination
4. Minimise the amount of sedentary time. (sitting)
5. Some activity is better than none, and more provides greater health benefits
This might sound onerous, but in reality it can be achieved very easily.
Let’s look into these guidelines a bit deeper to see how easy it is to meet them and what the benefits are.
First we can consider why should we exercise at all?
• All muscle wastes away if it is not used: the motto use it or lose it really is true.
• Skills such as balance and co-ordination deteriorate with age. However they can be maintained and even improved with regular practise. This deterioration is the main case of older people falling so easily, so controlled exercise will reduce your risk of falling.
• Bone density also deteriorates with age meaning falls are more likely to result in fractures. Controlled exercise will improve bone density hence reducing the risk of fractures.
• Posture can deteriorate as we age for all sorts of reasons, most of which are correctable by specific targeted exercise: don’t become a stooping person!
• Your cardio-vascular system ages with you. We get higher blood pressure, less efficient blood flow around the body and much reduced oxygen uptake by the body, leaving us feeling less like exercise, when in fact we need more! See point 1.
• If you are suffering from arthritis, exercise is known to be beneficial, reduce levels of pain and improve mobility.
Second, what is moderate intensity activity (point 2 of the recommendations)?
Activity, here, can be defined as any movement that increases your heart rate from its normal resting rate. The measure of moderate intensity is different for every individual. It is not advisable to use any generic figures for this, the best approach would be to ask any appropriately qualified instructor.
What activities could count as moderate intensity?
Walking is brilliant provided it is on a regular basis and is appropriately vigorous. We can check whether you are being vigorous enough by testing your activity level in a SELECT class. If you walk your dog daily it is quite possible that you already meet the guidelines for cardiovascular exercise.
Interestingly, golf is found to be of limited benefit. It is not aerobic, it promotes misbalanced strength and flexibility in the body and research shows no bone density improvement. This would not count.
Gardening is also classed as non-beneficial. The bending, reaching and kneeling all puts stress on the body rather than strengthening it.
Swimming is similar to walking in that it can be great for cardio if it is done regularly and with appropriate vigour. However it doesn’t improve bone density or balance. And if you suffer any joint issues, breaststroke should be avoided.
Other exercises to consider that can be beneficial are, cycling, rowing or cross-training in the gym.
So what exercise is available to address point 3 of the recommendations?
Generally these exercises are specific routines that are performed in classes, in the gym, in a swimming pool or at home. The important point here is to ask an appropriately qualified instructor for guidance on what would be the most beneficial forms for you, and also to teach you how to perform the movements without them being detrimental to you.
Pilates is probably the most suitable form of exercise as it is controlled and specific in its aims. It doesn’t encourage excessive movement, and primarily uses the body’s own weight for resistance. This means it is particularly accessible even for people to do at home.
I have developed a specific variant of Pilates designed to be particularly beneficial for people with injuries, aches and pains, bad backs and posture difficulties. In “I Move Freely” Pilates classes I use biomechanic exercises to gain the maximum benefit in loosening stiff joints, backcare exercises to strengthen yet protect the spine as well as strengthening exercises for the muscles which give support to our skeletal structure. Posture is addressed with work to open the shoulder girdle, thus preventing the shoulder rounding which can easily lead to ‘hunching’. Also, I avoid some traditional Pilates exercises (e.g. roll downs, the 100 or double leg lifts) which put pressure on the lower back, neck and pelvic muscles. Provided you exercise correctly and regularly in class and continue to use the correct muscle engagements throughout the week when doing normal everyday activities you will be gaining strength and stability.
What if you don’t feel able to take part in a class nor want to go to the gym?
SELECT is a small group class (max 4 people) I run specifically to cater for you. Because the attendees are very limited the exercises can be completely tailored to your individual needs.
For example, if you cannot get down to the floor, or you cannot stand for any period, we can provide chair based exercise, or we have exercise couches. If you find it uncomfortable on normal exercise mats we can provide memory foam mats which protect any protruding, or painful parts from the hard floor.
As another example, If you have specific recommendations from your GP or physio, we are experienced at working with your practitioner to make sure the exercises are appropriate to your needs.
SELECT allows me to shape the class to each individual whatever their requirements.
Consequently, SELECT makes getting started easy, it is friendly, focussed to your needs, will address concerns you may have about your body as it ages and work towards keeping you independent and active – fit for life for all of your life.
If you are unsure in any way about attending a class or what exercise is suitable for you, please arrange to pop in for an informal chat and see how easy it is to incorporate exercise into your life.