There’s no doubt that keeping active makes us feel more energetic. But there are other more specific benefits, including helping to:
- manage high blood pressure and angina
- keep you at a healthy weight
- maintain regular bowel movements
- stimulate a poor appetite
- strengthen muscles and bones, reducing the risk of falls and fractures
- ease discomfort if you have arthritis or Parkinson’s.
Regular exercise also boosts the brain chemicals that lift your mood and make you feel happy – so it can be a good way to deal with stress and anxiety.
The 4 building blocks to being active
Developing and maintaining stamina, strength, flexibility and balance are particularly important as you get older, and can help you carry out everyday tasks more easily, as well as enjoy activities more.
Stamina helps you to walk longer distances, swim and mow the lawn.
Strength helps you to climb stairs, carry shopping, rise from a chair and open a container.
Flexibility helps you to bend, get in and out of a car, wash your hair and get dressed.
Balance helps you to walk and climb steps confidently, stand from a sitting position and respond quickly if you trip.
Any amount of extra activity that’s appropriate for your age group and health makes a difference. If you’re generally fit and have no health conditions that limit your ability to move around, the Government recommends that you build up to doing two-and-a-half hours of moderate activity each week, plus two sessions of muscle-strengthening activity a week.
Moderate activity may leave you feeling warm and a little breathless. It can include:
- walking fast
- cycling on level ground
- playing a motion sensor game on a computer console like a Wii or Xbox
- hand washing the car.
Exercises that help strengthen your muscles can include dancing, heavy gardening and yoga. Lifting bags of shopping or weights can help to strengthen the muscles in your arms and wrists.
Age UK has a tabletop flip chart available to order with exercises to help improve your strength and balance, including exercises that you can do while sitting down – call 0800 169 6565 to order.
More vigorous activity
If you’re already active, you can improve your fitness and health by doing 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week. This can include:
- cycling fast or up hills
- climbing stairs
- playing tennis or football.
If you haven’t been very active before, always build up gradually and speak to your GP before increasing your activity levels significantly.
Everyday activities, such as shopping and housework, don’t count towards your two-and-a-half hours of moderate activity as they don’t increase your heart rate enough – but doing any activity is better than none at all.