Exercise isn’t just about losing weight, in fact it will benefit your health and wellbeing long before you start shedding pounds or tone up your tummy. “Research has found that regular exercise helps to combat the loss of stamina, muscle strength, balance and bone density that comes with age, it’s a true anti-ager,” says Yours Feel Younger Expert Julie Robinson (www.moveitorloseit.co.uk). “If exercise were a drug we’d all be knocking at the doctor’s door and begging for a prescription.”
A study from Walking Works found that if everyone in England did the recommended amount of exercise a week it could prevent 36.815 people dying prematurely, 6,735 cases of breast cancer and 12,061 people going to hospital for emergency heart disease treatment - every year!
“With the right kind combination aerobic exercise and strength training your muscles and fitness levels could be like those of someone 20 years younger,” says Julie. “It really can turn back the clock.”
The Department of Health suggests that people over 50 should do a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise a week – that’s about 20 minutes a day. “You could do this in two 10 minute chunks if you’re not used to exercising,” says Julie. “If you’re already active then try to do more than 20 minutes a day to keep improving your fitness.”
The key to sticking to your exercise goals is to find something that you really enjoy. Each type of exercise has different anti-ageing benefits so it’s often a good idea to combine a few different things.
“Yoga helps to tone up all the muscles in your body,” says leading Yoga expert Barbara Currie (www.barbaracurrieyoga.com). “The careful slow movements relieve tension in your joints and spine. This helps to improve poor posture and keep your joints flexible and free from aches, pains and stiffness.”
The deep breathing exercises combined with the postures stimulate blood flow to your skin and hair keeping them healthy and glowing. Research has also shown that regular yoga practice could help to improve your memory, lower your blood pressure and ease arthritis pain.
“I recommend one hour long class a week and 15 minutes of practice each day at home,” says Barbara. If you can’t get to a class there are lots of DVDs and books available that you can do at home. Try Barbara Currie’s Power Packed Yoga (£6.00/DVD).
Great for you if: You want to improve your balance and flexibility and ease stress and tension.
“Dancing is a fantastic way to get fit,” says Ian Waite, co-founder of new dance fitness class FitSteps and former Strictly professional. “It targets every single muscle in your body and helps you to burn fat, boost circulation, challenge your balance and tone up your figure.”
Dancing is great for keeping your mind young too. “You have to concentrate on learning the steps and moving with the music so it’s an ideal memory workout,” says Natalie Lowe, co-founder of FitSteps and Strictly professional. Research has shown that dancing could help to lift your mood and improve your mental health too “It’s a really social form of exercise too because every class is filled with like-minded people who just want to get fit and have a good giggle,” says Natalie.”
Traditionally you’ve needed a partner to dance with but at FitSteps you dance alongside everyone else in the class. “It’s really relaxing and a great way to make new friends while getting fit,” says Ian. Find your nearest FitSteps class at www.fitsteps.co.uk or call 0845 6492582.
Great for you if: You want to work your mind as well as your body and meet some new friends.
“Tai Chi is a slow and gentle exercise system, which allows you to develop a clearer sense of balance, relaxation and posture,” says Tai Chi teacher Ronnie Robinson. “It helps to encourage the flow of your body’s natural healing energy, which can help to increase your flexibility, suppleness and exercise your muscles.”
It’s great for relaxation and helps to calm and focus your mind. Research has also found that Tai Chi could help to improve your memory and scientists believe it could even help to reduce your risk of dementia.
Making Tai Chi part of your exercise routine could also help you to prevent a fall. Research has found that people who regularly practice Tai Chi have better balance and are less likely to have a fall. Check local listings for a class near you.
Great for you if: You want to improve your balance and boost your memory.
“Walking is one of the best and cheapest forms of exercise you can do,” says Julie. “It’s a weight bearing exercise, which means that it puts pressure on your bones and helps them to stay strong, which could help to reduce your risk of osteoporosis.”
Walking tones up your legs and bottom, and if you walk tall, swing your arms and pull in your stomach, it will tone up your tummy and arms too. If you walk with purpose and get a little out of breath you’ll also be working your heart and lungs and burning calories.
One study found that walking for an hour a day could reduce your risk of breast cancer by 14 per cent. Another found that walking every day could reduce your risk of type II diabetes by a huge 40 per cent. And further research discovered that a brisk walk could reduce your risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol as much as going for a run.
Great for you if: You want an easy exercise routine that could help to strengthen your bones and protect your heart health.
Cycling is ideal if you have stiff joints – it’s low impact, which means that it doesn’t put too much pressure on your joints. But it still helps you stay in shape. Cycling burns calories fast. An 11 stone woman could burn 277 calories cycling leisurely for an hour. Pedal faster and you could burn up to 611 calories. It’s a great way to tone up your legs and bottom, and if you ride up hill your arms and tummy too.
Cycling could also help you to live longer – one study found that women who cycle regularly live for 2.2 years longer than their non-cycling friends. Hopping on your bike could also protect your heart. According to the British Medical Association cycling just 20 miles over a week could reduce your risk of heart disease by 50 per cent.
If you don’t have a bike or don’t want to cycle on your own, contact British Cycling’s Breeze programme (www.goskyride.com/Breeze). Breeze organise women only UK wide bike rides, can help you find a bike to hire or buy and help you find a cycling instructor.
Great for you if: You want to lose weight, tone up and protect your heart health with damaging your joints.
A gentle swim could burn over 200 calories in 30 minutes and it’s great for shaping up your whole body. According to the experts at the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) water supports up to 90 per cent of your body weight – which means swimming is ideal if you have arthritis. The water makes moving your joints less painful and allows you to strengthen the muscles that support your joints to make them less stiff on land – it’s great for preventing arthritis too.
One study found that swimming could help to significantly lower your blood pressure and the experts believe that working out in water helps you to work out at the same intensity while putting less pressure on your heart.
The ASA provide adult swimming classes to help people get back into swimming. Find your local ASA approved pool at www.swimming.org/poolfinder or call 01509 618 700
Great for you if: You want to ease joint pain and prevent arthritis.
“Yoga has kept me young”
Maureen Pappin 78, from Surrey has been practicing yoga for 19 years.
“I started going to yoga classes when I was 59. My health wasn’t great at the time. I had damaged my right knee and could barely walk. I could no longer cycle or swim and I had no idea how I was going to stay fit. I was also struggling with my vision and had been diagnosed with Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD).
“I tried one of Barbara Currie’s yoga classes and loved it. It was a gentle way to exercise my body and it helped my knee to recuperate. It makes me calmer, more focused and better able to deal with stress. I’m fitter and stronger now in my seventies than I was in my fifties.
“After two years of doing yoga every week I went for an eye test. My optometrist was amazed to find that my AMD had reversed itself. He suggested that the forward bends and postures such as headstands that you do in yoga had increased the blood flow to my eyes and helped to repair them.
“Yoga has definitely kept me feeling young – and I’ve had so much fun and met some really good friends at my yoga classes. I tell everyone about it. I can’t recommend it enough.”
Maureen regularly attends Barbara Currie’s Yoga classes – find out more at www.barbaracurrieyoga.com or call (01372) 467177
Always speak to your GP before starting any new exercise routine.