7 tips to increase your physical activity as you get older

Published on September 19, 2019 by TFP Team

Official UK guidelines say that adults should do 150 minutes of moderate activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, every week. However, according to the Health Survey for England in 2016, 34% of men and 42% of women are not hitting the aerobic exercise targets.

The Daily Telegraph also reports that ‘it’s been estimated that almost half of the over-fifties in the UK do little or no exercise’.

The health and wellbeing benefits of exercise are well-documented. The NHS say that there is strong evidence that active people have a lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, some cancers, depression and dementia.

However, it’s sometimes not easy to find the motivation or time to do some physical activity as you get older. So, we’ve put together seven tips on how you can keep fit without having to sign up to the London Marathon.

1. Use the stairs

Stair climbing is officially classed as a ‘vigorous exercise’ and burns more calories per minute than jogging. You burn roughly a calorie and a half for every ten steps you climb, and you burn a calorie for every 20 steps you descend.

Climbing stairs requires eight times more energy expenditure than sitting down and burns around seven times more calories than taking a lift.

Studies have found that climbing just eight flights of stairs a day lowers average early mortality risk by 33%. Seven minutes stair climbing a day can halve the risk of a heart attack over a 10-year period.

Even if it’s just a floor or two at your local department store, take the stairs when you can. And don’t ride the escalator: climb it.

2. Take up a sport or activity

You’re never too old to have a go at a new sport. One way to benefit from additional motivation to undertake physical activity is to take up a team sport or pastime, as you’ll find your commitment to your team helps you to get involved even on days where you don’t feel like it.

You don’t have to join a gym or choose a high impact sport. For example, you could join a local walking group and, if there isn’t one near you, start one! Walking works the cardiovascular system and burns calories – but make sure you walk faster than a stroll and climb an occasional steep hill.

Set yourself a goal of completing a Parkrun by signing up to the NHS Couch to 5k programme. Or, instead of dinner and the theatre, do something a little more strenuous – go dancing or wander around a museum.

3. Get the family involved

Another way to make your exercise enjoyable is to get your family involved.

  • Head out at the weekend for a walk around the countryside or a city. You’ll get a physical boost, unwind from the week’s stresses, and get to spend time with your children or grandchildren. And, you can increase your physical activity by introducing a game of hide-and-seek or similar.
  • Go for a bike ride. Take your family out for a ride in the country and pack a picnic!
  • Encourage physical play with your children or grandchildren. Join them in their games and as they go splashing in puddles. Dance around the kitchen as you’re cooking with them. And let them climb on you – all these activities will keep you active.
4. Adopt a dog

There are lots of positive reasons to adopt a dog. Not only do they make excellent companions, but they can also be good for your mental health.

And, adopting a dog gives you an excellent reason to get out of the house and exercise. Benefits include:

  • Improving your cardiovascular performance
  • Lowering your blood pressure
  • Improving your mood
  • Keeping you motivated to exercise regularly as your dog will need regular walking

Whether it’s a brisk walk around the streets or a gentle jog around the park, both you and your dog will get lots out of your regular exercise regime.

5. Take up gardening

It might not sound like the path to physical fitness, but gardening, including planting, weeding and mowing the lawn, can burn more than 250 calories an hour.

Personal trainer Matt Roberts told The Guardian: “The measure really is you’re getting generally hot, out of breath, and you’re working at a level where, if you have a conversation with somebody while you’re doing it, you’re puffing a bit.

“With gardening, you’d have to be doing the heavier gardening – digging – not just weeding.”

6. Become a volunteer

One of the main barriers to staying physically active is motivation. So, if you can make exercise enjoyable, you’re more likely to persist.

Another way to stay motivated is to become a volunteer. There are likely to be many volunteering projects near you that help you keep active while also giving something back to the community. Examples include:

  • A local dog shelter or kennels might need help in walking dogs or caring for animals
  • Helping a local school by supervising day trips
  • Working in a charity shop is likely to keep you on your feet!
  • Helping to maintain a local nature reserve.
7. Take up a martial art

Martial arts combine exercise, movement and relaxation and are good for both your physical and mental health.

For example, tai chi has been called ‘meditation in motion’ and is made up of a series of graceful movements. Tai chi classes are available at all levels and so you should be able to find a beginner’s group near you.

Dr. I-Min Lee, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, says: “It’s particularly good for older people because balance is an important component of fitness, and balance is something we lose as we get older.”

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