Why it's never too late to exercise

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The over-65 age group is less active than any other. But exercise doesn't have to be difficult - and it can help you live a longer, happier life.

But is it too late to improve your fitness and health once you are past the first flushes of youth? Absolutely not! You can train the older body, and markedly so. And with so much "untrained reserve" it's possible for sedentary people to make huge gains, and fast.

Studies show improvements in balance, strength, gait, muscular power, blood pressure, endurance and bone density as a result of regular physical activity in older age. For example, one study on 90-year-old women in a nursing home found that 12 weeks of strength training took the equivalent of 20 years off their thigh muscle age, resulting in improved walking and mobility.

Another study found that six months of regular exercise increased aerobic fitness by 30% in 60-70 year-olds. Exercise can even help you live longer with research from Harvard University finding that men who burned 2,000 calories a week through exercise lived two-and-a-half years longer, on average, than sedentary men.

There's also good evidence that physical activity has important effects on the mental health of older adults with a joint study by the National Institute of Mental Health and Age Concern finding that regular exercise was associated with reduced stress, depression and anxiety; enhanced cognitive function and overall psychological well-being; and increased self-esteem and contact with the community.

However there's often a perception of risk among older people regarding physical activity. People worry 'is this safe for me? Will I have a heart attack? Will I make an existing condition worse?'

But are such fears valid? In most cases, no.

In fact, the benefits of physical activity - at any age - are so compelling that it could be argued that a bigger threat to health and longevity is not exercising. Inactivity itself can be life-limiting.

Whatever activity you choose you do need to be consistent and sustain it in the long term in order to reap the benefits.

And what about exercise type? Aerobic activity such as brisk walking or cycling is the gold standard but the importance of strength, flexibility and balance training shouldn’t be ignored with the World Health Organisation recommending twice-weekly training in these important attributes for older people, to assist with fall prevention and for the maintenance of independence.

The staff at Coastside Fitness will help you with choosing the correct type of exercise at the right intensity level and make sure you’re comfortable and happy so you can look forward to exercising.

We have the potential, even in advanced years, to enjoy very vigorous activity which can add not only years to your life, but life to your years!