The first thing to say is FORGET the word “exercise” if it fills you full of fear. Choose an alternative word you hate less, like “movement”, decide you’re going to be open minded just for a few minutes and read on….
Exercising your body is good for you. Being sedentary and not exercising your body is not good for you. But exercise can have lots of negative associations. Pain from arthritis or breathlessness from lung disease; muscle pains from muscles that aren’t used to being used. Or the embarrassment about being seen exercising and the expense of joining a gym.
The government’s guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise a week plus strengthening exercise on at least two days a week might be enough to put you off completely. I mean, what is moderate or vigorous exercise anyway, and who apart from people lifting weights at the gym actually does strengthening exercises (and can you even do them if you don’t have a gym membership?).
Okay here we go with the positives:
Anything is better than nothing
Doing the tiniest bit of physical activity is better than doing none at all. And better than that, the health benefits of going from nothing to a little bit of exercise are much bigger than for people who are increasing the amount of exercise they are doing at the top end of the scale.
It all counts
Even if it’s only going up the stairs, or walking to the corner shop. If it’s more than you normally do, it’s going to be good for your health.
You’re never too old
In fact being active is so important as we age. When we’re young we take our balance and ability to move unaided for granted. As we age, our muscles shrink and our balance is not as good. But guess what, if we use our muscles and do things that require balancing we can potentially slow this whole process down. I’m not talking tight-rope walking here, just day to day activities like walking, cycling, dancing.
There’s something for everyone
You just need to find it and give it a go. You can exercise yourself but doing it with others can add additional benefits – a bit of company, shared interests, some accountability.
Don’t rule out the gym and other local exercise initiatives without looking into them. Loads of areas have schemes to help people with health problems, or who aren’t used to exercising to get more active.
In our local area you can be referred by a health care professional for specialist one to one sessions at the local gym at a heavily subsided rate. These sessions help guide you with what you can do. The people leading the sessions are expert in what they do. As well as that there are a number of classes for people with poor mobility, who have had heart attacks or other major health problems, and for people with osteoporosis.
There’s also walking football for the over 50’s and 60’s, there are over 30 local walking groups aimed at people who need to walk on the flat.
The people who run these programs are really enthusiastic and keen to support people to get started. They’re also well used to helping people who are nervous and unsure about joining- because guess what, there are loads of people who fit into that category.
Opportunities vary from area to area but have a look on the internet, or phone your local council gym and ask them what’s available.
So why is exercise good for you?
There are so many reasons. Reducing risk of various cancers, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes. Improving mood and self confidence. Reducing risk of dementia, falls, thinning of the bones and fractures (yes, the risk of breaking your hip actually goes down by two thirds if you are active).
I hope so. But don’t stop there. It’s time to make a plan. A small achievable plan. You could look for something you might enjoy online and make that phone call, or get out for a 10 minute walk three times this week. Start small and build on it. Small changes are the way forward. Good luck!