Follow these simple steps to benefit body and mind, no matter your age!
There’s no doubt that discovering how to get fit and healthier is on everyone’s to do list – but are you doing anything about it? With the overwhelming minefield of fitness options bombarding us, there’s no surprise that we put it off – because simply;
Where do I start?!
At the beginning is the answer. Just move…
Incorporating movement into your daily routine causes a release of endorphins which lifts our mood. Our body is designed to move around and not be sedentary. However, many of us are in sedentary jobs and not purposefully moving is a risk factor for many physical health conditions and also for things like depression. A 2011 study suggests that prolonged attention to a single task can hinder performance. “Deactivating and reactivating your goals allows you to stay focused,” University of Illinois psychology professor Alejandro Lleras says.
As we get older, and we’re talking over the age of 30, we start losing bone density and muscle atrophy increases. So exercise really needs to become an important part of our lives. In particular, it is critical to start regular strength training as explored in the journal Climacteric finding that those at this life stage who lifted weights recorded improved sleep and reduced menstrual symptoms. Lifting can help us prevent osteoporosis and fractures as we age, by building and maintaining muscle we also burn more fat, whilst toning and shaping!! Win win! Being peri-menopausal or menopausal often comes with a host of often unpleasant symptoms and fitness is an excellent way to manage these effectively and naturally.
Your fitness age
Using online tools or scales that can work out metabolic age are all useful tools for establishing current fitness levels, and this can serve as an excellent motivation and accountability tool. Jumping on the scales or physically checking in on body measurements is important at times to establish one’s own reality. There are also many fitness watches to choose from now and these remind us to move and can track useful data, such as heart rate and steps. It’s even possible to work out your own biological age and metabolic age.
But don’t get hung up on the numbers. Use it as a bench mark and check in at intervals, maybe weekly to begin with to see that what you’re doing is working, then extend the period. Think about, how do you feel? Are you sleeping better? Do your jeans button up easier? Did you friend pay you a compliment?
Top ways to increase fitness
Make easy lifestyle changes, don’t get caught up in huge fitness goals. Start with something like getting at least 10,000 steps a day.
Introduce strength training using weights at least twice a week under the guidance of a personal trainer. Light weights 0.5kg-5kg is a great start to working out at home and progressing beyond body weight. Strength training is done best mindfully, controlling the eccentric (when the muscle lengthens from force) will help you build more strength and also create better length in the muscle.
Improve aerobic fitness through exercise like brisk walking, jogging and swimming. Couch to 5km is a brilliant tool. A lot of people hate running, understandably so, as running without fitness can leave you struggling to breathe, which isn’t pleasant. The couch to 5km offers a progressive way to build up running slowly, but once achieved it’s important to maintain the 5km runs. Being accountable to even an app is an ideal way to gain motivation.
As we age, flexibility also becomes more important so work on stretching or take up yoga or Pilates. Taking 5-10 minutes following exercise to stretch through worked muscles is vital to continuing a progressive state. Stretching maintains range of movement and health in the muscle, not stretching will actually lead to muscle weakness and lack of movement, meaning the next time you workout will be harder. Massage following exercise can also prompt better recovery of the muscle by 60%, compared to rest alone at only 15%. A worked muscle needs active rest (2-3 days) to recover and build, working a worked muscle too soon leads to atrophy. You can also aid further recovery by feeding the muscle with protein, hence the use of shakes. Protein contains amino acids, which is the body’s building blocks!
Interval training such as distances of 100-400 metre running sprints with rests at end or periods on a bike ride where maximum effort is achieved for short periods (this can be applied to any form of fitness or sport) is the only way to develop our fast twitch muscles so use it or lose it.
Similar to above HIIT training works in a similar way. Getting our heart rate to a maximum rate through short periods of high intensity exercise is often a more effective way of building fitness than going for longer period workouts at a lower intensity.
Increase NEAT (non exercise activity thermogenesis): increase movement in day time without it being specific exercise. For example take the stairs, use a basket when shopping instead of a trolley and fidget more!
For those with injuries or disabilities, which is a lot of us, there is normally an adapted version of the exercise, or other parts of the body that can be trained to achieve improved fitness. Exercise in water is great for those with any limitation.