Exercise is essential for staying fit and healthy, no matter how old you are. And while the types of exercise appropriate to you will change as you enter new life stages, one thing remains the same: the importance of physical activity.
According to the Medibank Better Health Index, almost 60% of Aussies aged 18-24 participated in some form of exercise in the last 3 months. However this figure then dwindles with every passing year, and by the age of 65, only 30% are doing regular exercise.
Benefits of exercise
When it comes to exercise, the benefits are well documented. It can help you maintain strength and stamina, improve your mood, stay socially connected, keep your brain active and help you manage your weight. It can also reduce the risk of developing chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
So why is it that as we get older, we’re less likely to exercise?
Well naturally, things change as we age. Joints and muscles can become stiff and our bones weaken, leading to more serious injuries. Yet the truth is, as we get older, staying active becomes even more important in maintaining and improving our health and wellbeing.
No matter how old you are, or what your physical ability is, around thirty minutes a day of moderate-intensity exercise, in bouts of 10 minutes or more, should be enough to keep you in good shape. If you can’t do every day, aim for at least two and a half hours of exercise each week.
If you’re new to exercise and would like to get started, it’s a good idea to check in with your GP first so that you can prevent any unwanted injuries.
The best types of exercise for every age
If you’re aged 18-39
Your body is at its peak in your 20s and 30s, so now is a the time to build a good foundation, find something you enjoy and get into the habit of exercising regularly. Strength training like lifting weights and squats can help build muscle and keep your body strong and lean, while team sports, running and cycling are great cardio options. The key here is variety, especially to avoid overuse or imbalance injuries, so mix up any high-intensity workouts, like high intensity interval training, with balance and flexibility exercises, such as yoga and pilates.
If you’re aged 40-65
This is a period in your life where aches and pains start to creep in, so make sure you listen to your body and adapt your exercise regime accordingly. Try to balance low-impact sports like swimming and yoga with strength-building and aerobic exercises that will help to keep you fit, lean and injury-free. Some suggestions include running, cycling, tennis, and body-weight exercises, like squats, lunges and push-ups. Remember to check in with your doctor if you’re new to exercise, or it’s been a while.
If you’re aged 65+
If you don’t have any medical conditions that limit your mobility, there’s no reason you can’t have an active lifestyle that includes a range of exercises and activities. It’s a good idea to be aware of how different exercises affect your body — do things slowly if you need to, and stay away from anything that will place unnecessary stress on your bones or joints. Instead, focus on activities that you enjoy, like walking, swimming or playing golf. You should also try to include a combination of strength, balance as well as aerobic exercise. For more information and inspiration, check out the Better Health Channel’s recommendations around physical activity for seniors.
Whether you’re in your 20s or your 70s, the most important thing is that find an activity that you enjoy, and keep moving.