If you’re serious about wanting to lose weight and you want to get results faster, you need to add a bit of exercise to your healthy eating plan. Studies show that people who combine a healthy diet and regular exercise lose more weight and build up their strength and balance, which in the long-term could help you to maintain your independence for longer.
If the promise of weight loss isn’t enough to get you in your trainers, what about the fact that regular exercise could help you to reduce your risk of almost every major 50-plus health concern? A weekly fitness programme has been shown to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, strengthen your heart and lungs, build bone strength, fight diabetes, ease joint pain, improve your sex life and bolster your mental health. Scientists have even discovered that a regular workout could help to prevent and slow down age-related damage to your DNA.
To reap the benefits you need to be exercising for at least 30 minutes five times a week. That might sound like a tall order, but you can make it easier for yourself by breaking it down into ten-minute chunks. A brisk ten-minute walk to the shops, another short, but purposeful, stroll after lunch and another in the evening for example.
You also need to find a form of exercise that you enjoy – if you find something fun you’re more likely to stick to it. Different activities offer different benefits so it’s a good idea to get a bit of variety. For best results try to combine a cardiovascular workout (one that gets you hot and sweaty and a little bit out of breath), with some toning programmes to strengthen your bones and muscles. If you’re stuck for inspiration we've got a few ideas for you.
Getting in the pool has lots of health benefits and is something most of us can enjoy. It’s great if time is precious because 30 minutes of swimming is the equivalent of 45-60 minutes of other exercise due to the pressure of the water on your body. Swimming is easy on your joints and you could burn 250-400 calories in an hour.
A great way to maintain a healthy weight, walking works your heart and lungs, helps to lower blood pressure and could even reduce your risk of some cancers. It could also boost your brain-power. US scientists have discovered that walking six-to-nine miles a week may prevent age-related memory decline by slowing the rate that your brain shrinks as the years go by.
If you want all those health benefits you’ll need to put a bit of effort into your walk. Start out at a gentle pace to allow your body to warm up, but after five minutes stride out with purpose, at a pace that allows you to just hold a conversation without being too breathless – probably a bit faster than you’d usually walk. If you can chat away comfortably you’re not walking fast enough.
To burn extra calories look for a walk with a bit of a hill in it – this will make you work harder and help you tone up faster. Take small, short steps instead of long strides and swing your arms to work your upper body, too.
With all sorts of anti-ageing benefits, studies have shown that yoga can reduce levels of ageing compounds called cytokines in your body. This, in turn, reduces inflammation, thought to contribute to strokes, heart disease, arthritis and some cancers. Further research has linked yoga to a healthy heart by helping you to
deal with stress.
Most of us can expect the odd twinge and creak in our joints as we age, but you could help to put off the inevitable with a bit of Tai Chi. This gentle Chinese martial art has been found to ease stiff joints and reduce the pain of arthritis. The flowing movements of Tai Chi help to improve your posture and balance and relieve pressure on your spine. Regular practice is also thought to reduce your risk of a dangerous fall as you get older.
For a great mind and body workout you can’t beat dancing. It’s physically demanding and remembering all the steps will challenge your brain too. Researchers have found that of all physical activities dancing is the one most likely to prevent age-related cognitive decline.
If you want to beef up your bones and stay strong then add in some resistance training. Working out with weights, and doing functional exercises such as squats and lunges could help to improve your bone mineral density and prevent or even help to reverse osteoporosis.
It’s never too late to start either according to Canadian researchers, who found that people over 65 could improve their strength by 20 per cent in just two, hour long, sessions a week.
Team sports are a great anti-ageing fitness booster. A survey found that two thirds of women say they work harder when they exercise with friends and that they have more fun, too! Aside from the usual physical benefits, teaming up with friends has some really positive psychological perks. Being part of a team makes us more likely to stick to exercising because none of us want to let the side down.
- There's more health advice in every issue of Yours magazine, out every fortnight on a Tuesday.