I used to find exercising really easy as I had a lovely, lively, young Springer Spaniel who had bags of energy and was a struggle to keep up with! But sadly she is now 12 years old and, except on really good days or when she sees a unsuspecting squirrel, she is trailing several feet behind me! I realise that my old workout is no longer the aerobic fix I need….
I wonder if any of you watched the ‘Trust me I’m a doctor‘ programme on BBC 1 on Thursday 13th September? I love watching it when I’m around and that episode was particularly interesting.
The affects of ageing on our muscles
The programme explained how over the age of 50 we start to lose muscle mass at a rate of about 1% per year and muscle power at a rate of about 2% per year. This in part explains why older people become more ‘frail’ and are more susceptible to falls.
1% or 2% per year may not sound much but if you think about it that adds up to 30% loss of power by the time you are 80. This can have a significant effect on your ability to walk distances, climb stairs and even such simple things as getting up out of a chair. Muscle weakness can also affect your balance and increase your chances of having a fall.
So keeping up our exercise when we are over 50 is absolutely essential if we want to maintain our muscle mass and independence.
The shocking statistic is that 40% of middle aged adults take less than 10 minutes continuous brisk walking per month!
So what can you do to reverse this affect?
The programme also explains how important it is to do resistance exercise such as weight lifting at the gym, to combat this effect. They recommend you do this twice a week. They also demonstrated some simple body weight exercises (ones that we frequently prescribe to clients) that can be done without the need to go to the gym.
Common excuses for not exercising!
The most common excuse for not exercising is a lack of time. So some scientists at Bath university carried out an experiment looking at blood sugar levels and blood fat levels at intervals after a block of 30 minutes brisk walking and compared this to 6 x 5 mins of simple exercises and taking no exercise at all. The simple exercises included sitting to standing, going up on your toes in standing, squats and marching on the spot.
They chose blood sugar and blood fat levels as these can be harmful in the extremes. If not kept under control they can lead to Diabetes and heart disease.
The team of doctors were all surprised to find that both exercise groups benefited equally with a 40% drop in both blood sugar and fat levels following the experiment. Not surprisingly the control group who took no exercise had no drop in blood sugar or fat levels at all.
This is a really useful finding as it means that those who are time poor but can squeeze in 5 mins here and there into their daily schedule can still do something really worthwhile for their health!
Top tips for sticking to an exercise regime!
- Exercise snacking! Remember that 5 mins brisk walking performed 6 times a day is just as good as 30 minutes of continuous brisk walking. So move regularly and take lots of mini breaks of exercise if you don’t have time to take it all in one go.
- Find a gym buddy! Remember that weight training for the over 50’s has lots of benefits to health including preventing that decline in muscle power and helping bone density. A good way to increase your chances of sticking to it is to find a gym buddy. This extra bit of commitment and the thought you might be letting someone else down is a great way to motivate yourself. My gym buddy (my son, Sam) has been away in New Zealand for the last 5 years so I’m looking forward to his return a week today and his help in motivating me to go to the gym more often!
- Joining a class can be a really helpful way to stick to exercise. The social aspect helps to make it fun and more than just exercise. We run 34 classes of Pilates, Yoga and Dance,Tone and Stretch classes each week so there’s something here for everyone!
- Diarising your exercise – simply popping a regular time in your diary can help to prevent other things taking over that time.
- Get it done early! Its so easy to put things off as the day progresses so try and get your exercise done early in the day before you get too busy and distracted by other things.
- Work exercise into your daily life – personally I walk to work (15 minutes) and on the way home I take a circuitous route for 50 minutes. It’s a great opportunity to listen to a book on audible or a podcast and I get home feeling refreshed and no longer thinking about the clinic! I know other people who cycle to work or walk their children to school and work exercise into their day that way.
- Personal training – some people just like the one to one attention and motivation of a personal trainer to keep them on track. The advantage to this is that the trainer can tailor the exercises specially to you and your physical needs. We have two physios (Richard and Dave) who both have a background of sports science degrees before training as physiotherapists and they offer personal training in our studio at the clinic. Using a doubly qualified Physio for your training means their in depth knowledge of the body will keep you exercising safely!
- Sign up for a charity event. There’s nothing like a good cause to spur you on! And it’s nice to share the experience with others.
- Share your exercise resolutions with friends. Telling people your intentions makes it much more likely you will stick to it. They say it can take 21 days of doing something regularly to form a habit so persevere!
Here at Physio on the River we aim to support you by getting you better and more healthy and keeping you that way through appropriate exercise.
If you’d like to join one of our classes or arrange for a personal training session with Richard or Dave just:
- call us on 0203 916 0286 and speak to one of our receptionists
- email us here
- or pop in for a chat! We are always happy to talk things through first
If you have a physical health issue that is stopping you from exercising then one of our team of physios may be able to help you back to fitness. Or if you have an elderly relative who is becoming frail and is at risk of falling – find out more about our falls prevention programme.