While Team GB’s Olympic success put a smile on the Nation’s face this summer, only time will tell whether its legacy will have a lasting effect on our bodies, too.
London 2012 saw participation in athletics and cycling rise - but the uptake of new activities wasn’t the preserve of younger generations. In fact a quarter of over fifties were inspired to get stuck in to a new sport as a result of the 2012 Olympics – taking up swimming, cycling and even canoeing¹.
If Rio’s given you a renewed interest in getting fit, there are plenty of options to choose from. And with research showing that being fit in your fifties has a positive impact on your later years, it’s worth making the right lifestyle choices now.
So why is being fit in your middle years so important? We’re told that exercise reduces inflammation – and this can help us avoid many chronic conditions that strike in older age. A healthy active lifestyle can prevent, or substantially slow down, a number of health concerns including heart disease, rising cholesterol levels, stroke and joint problems, too. As muscle mass naturally decreases once you’re over the age of 50, all your major muscle groups need attention, ideally on a daily basis. Focus exercise on your legs, back, hips, chest, stomach, arms and shoulders – because by using your muscles, you’re less likely to lose them.
If you’re short of time, thanks to work or family pressures, the good news is that exercise doesn’t have to take over your life. Health benefits can be seen with just two and half hours of moderate aerobic activity a week – that’s around 20 minutes a day. Moderate exercise is classed a ‘lightly challenging’ so you’ll feel yourself breathing faster and sweating a little. Good examples include brisk walking (at 3 mph or faster), cycling, tennis, dancing, gardening and even housework. If you have a dog – or you’re thinking about getting one – this can be the perfect way to build regular exercise into your day. And it’s not just about exercising your body. Keeping your mind in shape is also vital, so you could challenge yourself to read a book a month or, if reading’s not your thing, try your hand at cross words and Sudoku.
Looking ahead to retirement, your fifties is not just the time to be thinking about pensions and annuities; it’s also the ideal opportunity to consider how you’ll spend your new-found free time. Why not try out a few sports and activities now to work out what you might enjoy doing? Exercising in a group or with a fitness partner is a great motivator – look out for exercise classes, running groups and yoga sessions aimed at older age groups, or check out your local pool for swimming times for adults.
So while Tokyo 2020 might not be in your sights, focusing on fitness in your fifties and beyond can help slow down the aging process, boost energy levels and get your body in the best possible condition to deal with your older years.