Do you find yourself making excuses because of your age? Are there things you wish you could do but think they're best left to youngsters? Think again! Staying active and fit as you age is one of the most important things you can do. We're here with our top tips to maintain your fitness and stay healthy as you get older.
Do resistance training
It's still the biggest trend among fitness fanatics to do lots of heavy weight training, but lifting weights and doing resistance training has many more benefits than just bulking you up and giving you a great physique. It is scientifically proven that weight training increases your bone density which is important as you age to prevent natural deterioration in your bones and can help protect against age-related issues such as osteoporosis.
Not only this, having strong muscles around joints such as the knees can prevent these joints from failing so you're less likely to need a knee or hip replacement if you're regularly lifting weights. This doesn't mean you should be trying to out-lift everyone at the gym but doing regular, sensible resistance training will do the trick. Anything that adds resistance counts, so you don't have to hit the free weights area but can use the rowing machine, resistance machines, or lift weights if you'd like!
Forget the fads
Keto, paleo, whole30... there will always be fad diets around and people who claim that they lost drastic amounts of weight by following them. However, as you age your body needs extra care and won't bounce back so easily from an extreme diet. More so than ever, as you age you need to take it easy and if you're trying to lose weight you need to do it very slowly. Avoid fad diets which are very high in fat or that cut out entire food groups and instead stick to a natural, whole diet rich in lean protein, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and lots of fruit and vegetables.
While it may be true that these extreme diets do allow some people to lose weight, it is still a severe method and a lot of people end up gaining all the weight back anyway.
Stay 'all day active'
The best way to be active is to be 'all day active' which means walking or cycling instead of driving, making sure you don't sit for extended periods of time, and making a conscious effort to be active throughout the day instead of just for an hour or so of prescribed exercise.
If you adopt an active lifestyle you are far more likely to be healthy overall and to benefit from reduced lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. If you work, try adding activity into your work day by going for a walk at lunch time and incorporating exercise into your commute. If you're already retired, make the most of easy at-home exercise such as gardening and walking the dog.
Know your limits
It's always important to listen to your body and this is true even more so as you get older. There are often stories in the news of people discovering a passion for marathon running at the age of 60 or CrossFitters who are in their 80s, so we know it's possible to be active as we age, but make sure you're careful.
At any age, it's important to listen to your body and stop training if you become injured. Never push through real pain and give your body plenty of time to rest and recover. If you weren't particularly active when you were younger, you will most likely find it tougher than someone who has been active all their life.
What are the best exercises for older people?
So if you're going to stay fit and active as you age, what exercises and workouts should you be doing? These are the best exercises for older people.
Yoga or Pilates
Yoga and Pilates have proven their effectiveness over thousands of years and are practised all over the world. Low intensity slow movements combined with tough holds and challenging positions will test your muscles and improve your fitness while being gentle on your joints and not over-exerting you. Be careful though, practices like hot yoga or Bikram can be very strenuous so perhaps stick with the gentler types, especially if you have conditions like high blood pressure.
Swimming is zero-impact and can strengthen your joints without putting any pressure on them. This is especially good if you are heavy or suffer from joint problems and/or conditions like arthritis. Swimming is a full-body workout and will exercise all of your muscle groups from top to toe. It is also a functional workout as your muscle groups have to work together to move (rather than isolated movements such as a bicep curl) which is better overall for your health and fitness.
As mentioned above, weight training is not just for young gym goers looking to pile on the muscle and impress their peers. Done with correct form and in moderation, weight training can increase your bone density and can protect your joints from deterioration. Not only this, our metabolisms slow naturally as we age but weight training increases the metabolism, so this will offset some of the natural side effects of ageing and help keep you in great shape.
Keeping it simple, brisk walking is an easy and free way to stay fit and active as you age. Walking at a fairly fast pace can burn anything from 60 to 100 calories per mile. Walking is easy on the joints and getting out into the fresh air is great for not only your physical health but your mental health too. Pair this with making it social by walking with friends, making it practical by walking to the shops or appointments, or making it fun by walking the dog and you've got a great easy way to get fit without feeling like you're even trying!
Doing cardiovascular exercise is proven to improve your lung capacity, heart health, as well as aiding weight loss. Many people do not enjoy doing cardio and some don't do it at all. But which is the best type for you?
Low Intensity Steady State (LISS)
Low Intensity cardio is accessible to most people as you do not need a high level of fitness to begin with and you can easily incorporate it into daily life by going for a walk. Low intensity cardio exercises include things like walking, climbing stairs, or going for a gentle bike ride. These types of exercises are low impact and typically performed at around 40% of your maximum heart rate, which makes them easy to recover from and therefore can be performed on a regular basis. You probably won't break a sweat doing this type of cardio so you could do it on your lunch break at work. Bodybuilders often prefer this type of cardio as it is less likely to break down muscle tissue but can still help you drop body fat.
Benefits of LISS:
- It is low impact so you can still do it if you have a minor injury or have limited mobility.
- You won't break a sweat so you can fit it into your daily routine without having to plan around it.
- It doesn't break down muscle tissue so you can still improve your strength while dropping body fat.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
High Intensity Interval Training sees you working very near 100% of your maximum effort for short bursts with short rests in between. This type of training can help to improve your VO2 and cardiovascular fitness very quickly and is proven to aid weight loss. This type of cardio is not suitable for those who are pregnant or those who have injuries. You need a fairly high level of fitness to start with otherwise you will end up feeling very sick!
Benefits of High Intensity Cardio:
- Boosts Metabolism for up to 24 hours.
- Increases VO2 max.
- Shorter workouts are great for those who lack a lot of free time to train.
- Increased Lactate Threshold. Your ability to handle increased lactic acid buildup in your muscles increases.
Do you have to do cardio to burn fat?
The only way you can lose weight is by eating a calorie deficit. This means burning more calories than you are eating. While you don't need to do cardio to burn fat, it certainly helps! There are so many other benefits to doing cardio other than just weight loss, so it is definitely an important part of a healthy lifestyle.
If you're new to exercise, the fitness industry can seem daunting and impossibly complicated. Follow our 5 top tips so that you can wade through the misinformation and start getting fit the right way.
1. Consistency is more important than intensity
One of the most common trends for exercise beginners is to go in all guns blazing and then burn out because it's not sustainable. If you've never exercised before or you're coming back from a pregnancy or injury, you need to take it easy. Exercising as a complete beginner can be a big undertaking and you need to have a plan of action as well as realistic goals.
Focus on keeping up the exercise consistently in a way that you can maintain for the long term. The secret to a lot of fitness professionals is that fitness is their way of life, so try to incorporate your exercise into your daily life. Walk to work or cycle to the shops and make sure you enjoy your workouts so that they aren't a chore. A small, short workout is better than no workout at all.
Read more: How To Set Fitness Goals
2. Talk to a fitness professional
When starting from scratch, it can be easy to make mistakes and believe fitness myths that could send you in the wrong direction. Before you embark on a new exercise regime, talk to a personal trainer or fitness instructor so that you can get some advice to get your started. A lot of personal trainers will offer a free taster session so make the most of this, especially as they may do a fitness assessment for you so that you can see where your starting point is relating to your fitness levels.
Additionally, most gyms will have personal trainers and fitness instructors wandering around the gym, so feel free to ask them for help if you're struggling with an exercise, they'll be more than happy to help you. If you're opting for a group fitness class, talk to the instructor either before or after the class so that they can give you advice and get you started.
3. Don't copy what other people are doing
This is a common mistake to make: you see someone doing something, it looks interesting, so you copy it. However, a lot of the time you will find that they are not doing it correctly or they are performing the exercise with bad form and therefore by copying them, you are picking up bad habits early on.
If you're going to copy someone, copy the exercises and movements that a personal trainer is doing with their client. People do all sorts of crazy and unusual exercises at the gym, some that they've just made up or some that they saw online. Not only this, they might be training for a specific sport or goal that is different from yours, and they may well have completely different experience to you. Avoid copying others and you'll avoid getting injured and picking up bad habits.
Don't copy crazy exercises like this just because you see someone else doing them!
4. Invest in your fitness clothing
If you're going to make fitness a part of your life and you want to get fit for good, it's definitely worth investing in good gym clothing and fitness wear. Seek out brands which are designed by and endorsed by athletes as this activewear will be intelligently designed with the wearer in mind so you know that the running leggings won't fall down as you run and the gym tops won't chafe or rub as you move.
Trying to train in old cotton sweatshirts and worn out trainers may be fine to start, but you will soon find that you are uncomfortable and unable to reach your full potential at the gym. Invest in good quality gym wear and you'll be more motivated to train hard and consistently.
5. Don't give up
Research shows that 43% of people expect to give up their New Year's resolutions by February. Fitness and exercise are easy things to give up on when they get hard and then you're back to square one. No matter what, you need to be dedicated. Follow the above 4 tips to set you up for success so that you're less likely to want to give up, and make sure you don't quit when it gets tough as that is when you will start to see results!
The energy and excitement of making new year's resolutions and getting fit is well and truly burnt out and the gym is starting to empty out again. How can you stay motivated when all you want to do is melt into the sofa and eat? We're here to help. Follow these tips to boost your motivation when it feels like there's no hope.
1. Partner up
If you have someone to let down, you'll be less likely to flake. Having accountability means you have more of a reason to get to the gym and it will be more hassle to have to text your friend or personal trainer to say you're not going and then get an earful from then than to just go. Plus, you'll know that once you're there you'll have a great time because training with a buddy makes training more bearable.
2. Get changed
How many times have you been sat on the sofa watching TV after work telling yourself "I'll go in a minute" or "I'll go when this show is finished" and then it never happens? By getting changed into your activewear you're getting the ball rolling and getting into the right frame of mind to work out. Once you're changed into your sportswear you're already halfway there and will be much more ready to get out there and go train.
3. Take your gym gear to work
If you go to the gym straight from work, you won't have a chance to talk yourself out of it. If you pair this with point number 1 of partnering up and telling your friend you'll join them at the gym, you'll be well on your way to success. Get changed at work and go straight to the gym instead of going home first. It's much harder to gee yourself back up once you're home from work than if you continue the momentum from your day at the office.
4. Have a workout to look forward to
There's nothing worse than finishing a monotonous day at work and thinking about now having to go and run on a treadmill for half an hour while staring at a wall. By planning out a fun and exciting workout, you'll actually want to go to the gym and do it. Try circuit training or functional training to mix things up and talk to a personal trainer if you'd like to try something new like Olympic weightlifting or CrossFit. If you're dreading the workout, getting motivated can be impossible. Whereas if you're actually looking forward to it, exercising can be a joy instead of a chore. If you enjoy something like Zumba, sign up for a class! Group exercise can be a great way to stay motivated too.
5. Use the 10 second rule
If you find yourself making terrible excuses like "it's raining" or "I'm too tired" then use the 10 second rule. It's very simple: count to 10 and then go anyway! This will eliminate your mind telling you that you can't do it and 9 times out of 10 you'll find that you actually enjoy the workout and will be pleased that you went.
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The reason I started looking into barefoot running was the reason that most of us do, and that's injury prevention. Historically I have tried running; I've tried training for the London marathon, I've tried running 10k, but the result was always the same. Bad knees, tight IT bands, and eventually injury. In the end, I just gave up. That was until I read about barefoot running.
Before changing to a barefoot running style, I went to Vivo Barefoot headquarters to have my gait analysed. I ran on a treadmill barefoot and the guys checked the way I run. They claim that everyone is designed to run and it is only due to cushioned running trainers that we end up getting injured.
The main struggle I had with barefoot running was the impact on my calves. Changing to a forefoot strike puts a lot more pressure on your calf muscles and they start to ache a lot. Like anything, you need to build up slowly. I did build up my training and I got faster and a much stronger runner. But it was time to welcome a new running injury, shin splints.
So after building up working through the issues has been changed in worth it? Completely.Remember, changing running style will not happen overnight. This is a long, slow process.