Some of us will have hobbies that involve a bit of exercise. Maybe we walk, swim or cycle. Perhaps we play bowls or golf or do some other sport, maybe we dance. If we do, that’s fine but if not you should think about doing things that will provide some physical activity.
We are not talking about running marathons or going to the gym for three hours a day. If you have never taken much exercise, retirement is not the time to start doing strenuous exercise. Even if you have a dream about running the London marathon, a slow build-up is required! What we are talking about is doing some stretching to keep the body supple and some walking, swimming or cycling to keep the heart pumping and the blood pumping through the veins.
It’s a good idea to get out of breath once a day; doing so will help keep us fit by raising our heart rate and increasing the blood flow round our body. For people over 50, cycling and swimming are good ways to do this, because there is no stress on our ankle, knee and hip joints. However, if we do no impact exercise we leave ourselves susceptible to osteoporosis, so brisk walking is a good idea, too.
In terms of hobbies that can provide some gentle exercise, as well as walking, swimming or cycling, think about bowls (bowling clubs can be very sociable places) or dancing of some sort. Golf is very popular amongst older people and combines walking with the opportunity to socialise with others.
There are many activities that we can do to promote the four key areas of fitness in later life:
These are activities that improve stamina by exercising your lungs and getting your heart beating faster. They include swimming, walking briskly, walking up a gentle hill, running, cycling, climbing stairs, digging the garden, sweeping up leaves and cleaning windows.
Playing some sort of sport, badminton, tennis and so on – is another way of achieving these things.
Having stronger muscles will help with daily tasks such as getting out of the bath or a chair, carrying a bag or grandchildren and climbing stairs. They help support your back and therefore prevent back problems and help you maintain balance.
You can strengthen your muscles by repeatedly pushing against an immovable object, lifting and putting down something relatively heavy and repeatedly getting out of a chair. You can also get up and change the channel on the TV rather than using the remote control!
Digging in the garden will maintain your muscle tone as will walking up stairs rather than taking the lift. If you clean the car and windows or do the housework you will be helping, in particular, your arm muscles.
You might like to join an aerobics or acquafit class, which will help you both in strength and stamina or, of course, you can pump weights.
According to a Canadian study published in May 2007, doing resistance training in a gym, or even at home, can actually reverse the ageing process in the muscles of older people. In the study, not only did the people taking part get stronger, but the molecular machinery powering their muscles became as active as that found in younger people.
Flexibility and Suppleness
By stretching various parts of your body you will improve your flexibility, strengthen lower back muscles and improve posture. Stretching can also improve your balance.
You need to be flexible so you can do things such as reaching up or out to get something off a shelf, looking over your shoulder whilst driving, taking a sweater off and fastening a zip at the back of a skirt.
Try gently stretching various parts of your body in order to increase your flexibility. Be careful not to do it violently or suddenly, but do it gently and slowly.
Balance and Co-ordination
Good balance and co-ordination will help prevent falls, which in turn can lead to other injuries.