How to improve your fitness: a guide for Australia’s over-65s
OK, I know I can definitely benefit from improving my fitness – what should I do and how should I do it?
How to improve our fitness? The answer according to the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines is a suggested minimum of 150 minutes per week of cardiovascular exercise.
This can be split into 30 minutes on most weekdays – that’s just 3 x 10-minute sessions a day!
Here are some tips on how to improve fitness that will help you succeed.
1. Bust those exercise excuses
If you’ve read our previous article ‘Running Marathons at Age 100’ you would know that age is no barrier for seniors to improve fitness. It’s never too late to work on your health, even if you haven’t exercised much throughout your life.
Very few health or weight problems will stop you entirely from exercising. If you cannot do the full 150 minutes a week due to having chronic conditions, you should still try to be as physically active as your abilities allow. If you’re unsure, talk to your doctor about what would be safe for you as a senior to do to improve fitness. For seniors fitness, it’s OK to start small and build momentum.
Setting aside time for exercise and physical activity is a worthy investment in your health. If you have the time to watch an episode of your favourite television show, you may be surprised to find that on average, ads take up around 15 minutes of every hour of television between 6pm and midnight.
When asking how to improve fitness, really the answer is that it’s your decision to make exercise a priority, and taking the time to do exercise in short sessions can be just as effective as one long session. Why not start off with doing some heel raises or squats during the ad breaks? Or better yet, hop on the treadmill or exercise bike when you’re watching your favourite show?
2. Be active every day in as many ways as you can
As counter-intuitive as it sounds, there are health benefits from doing things that aren’t specifically ‘exercise’ that will improve your fitness.
By adding in opportunities for increased physical activity throughout your day, you can build your body’s overall capacity for exercise. We’re given many opportunities to increase our physical activity in our everyday lives that are both easy to do and won’t take up much time in your day.
Some examples for improving senior fitness include taking the stairs instead of the escalator, walking at golf instead of using the buggy, playing with your grandchildren or pets instead of watching them… the list goes on.
When you consider the benefits of exercise it shouldn’t be a difficult choice to seize an easy opportunity to sneak in some healthy physical activity throughout your day.
3. Find exercises that you enjoy doing
Just as making the decision to make exercise a priority is part of the answer on how to improve fitness, so is finding exercises that you enjoy doing. As exercise is something that should challenge your body, we’re naturally going to find ways to avoid it. However, finding a mode of exercise that you enjoy – whether it’s doing a dance class or joining your local lawn bowls club –will motivate you to stay on track and improve your fitness.
Think back to when you were younger – were there any hobbies you enjoyed? Do you love watching a good game of cricket? Why not try going back to playing social cricket with some friends or at your local club, or rediscover your love of the water with aqua aerobics.
4. Make sure you’re exercising smarter, not harder
It’s important as seniors that you do the exercises at the appropriate intensity for you. Since each person is different, an easy way to measure the exercise intensity is how tired you feel while doing the exercise (also known as your rate of perceived exertion).
It’s important to exercise at what we call a moderate intensity for optimum health benefits. Moderate exercise should make you feel like you can still talk, but you can’t sing the words to a song.
Examples of activities that are moderate intensity for most people include:
- Going for a brisk walk (which you could do with your dog),
- Doing some gardening or
- Having a great time dancing to tunes from your younger days.
You can have fun whilst you improve your fitness!
It’s also important to note that there are many different kinds of exercises designed to work on different things.
In addition to doing exercise to get your heart pumping and lungs working, there are also strengthening exercises using weights or resistance bands. Strengthening exercises improve your ability to do hard work or carry groceries (or small children). Flexibility exercises to maintain your range of motion. Finally, balance exercises to improve your ability to navigate even the trickiest of terrains.
Every person is different and may have different exercise priorities. If you’re interested in learning more about what kind of exercise types would benefit you the most, our physiotherapists can help. We can make a thorough assessment and planning exercise goals to meet your fitness goals.
5. Be patient with yourself
If you’re finding it difficult to get started, keep in mind that it will take time for your body to adapt to exercise. It is also important to allow the appropriate time for improvements.
Regardless of how much you’re able to do to start with, regular exercise is highly beneficial for anyone aged 65 or over. Build a fitness routine by setting a particular time and place for the exercises you’ve decided on.
6. Get some help from a health professional
It’s always best to check in with your local health professional to make sure what you’re doing is appropriate for you. The Physio Co’s team of physiotherapists specialise in seniors’ health and can visit you at home.
Our team can help. We can guide you on the best way to progress your exercises and keep you on track. We can come to your home and show you how to improve fitness. We can create a fitness program just for you and work with you to reach your fitness goals.
Get in touch (1300 797 793) with us today!
*** Article written by Karina Shum (The Physio Co – Team Sydney West)