Fit over forty - why it's never too late to start


It's so easy to find excuses not to exercise. You just washed your hair. You've got laundry to do. You'll be late for work. Whatever the excuses you come up with, though, being over 40 shouldn't be one of them.

You might imagine that exercise is just for the young and lithe. It isn't. Go to any fitness event and you'll see fabulously fit people of all ages. The truth is that it's never too late to start exercising, so long as you do it sensibly, and there are plenty of fun, safe and easy ways to get moving.

Why bother?

Will starting now really make a difference? Definitely. Getting active, whatever your age, will make a huge difference to your health and your sense of wellbeing. It'll make you feel healthier and more alert, help you sleep better and manage your weight. According to a 2011 study, people taking 15 minutes of daily activity like brisk walking added three years to their life expectancy.

Make it fun

Find something you enjoy. You don't have to join a gym or go running - you can get fit doing lots of other fun stuff. If you enjoy dancing, sign up for a ballroom or Zumba class. If you like having a giggle with friends, get some to join you at a fitness class. Always loved trampolining as a kid? Great - ask your leisure centre if they have a club.

Start small

The biggest mistake most people make is being too ambitious at the beginning. If you've never exercised or you haven't done anything for years, you need to give your body time to adjust. The good news, though, is that if you're older you'll see an improvement very quickly - one recent study found that 60-70 year olds increased their aerobic fitness by a massive 30% within six months.

Listen to your body. Youngsters might be able to launch into an intensive exercise regime without ill effect, but an older body is more prone to injury, and high-impact exercise like running and weightlifting, whilst great for staving off osteoporosis, can increase your risk of injury. It's also important to watch the intensity of your workouts if you have high blood pressure or have a history of heart disease in your family. Start gently - even a 10-minute workout is beneficial - and talk to your GP if you're at all concerned.

Don't rule out a low-impact exercise classes like Pilates and yoga - they'll keep you flexible, reduce your risk of muscle strain, and strengthen your core. If you're looking to build upper body strength, head to the pool. Swimming is easy on your joints and has been shown in a 2009 study to be better for longevity than walking or running.

Just do it

Whatever you do, get into the habit of exercising. Use a fitness app if it helps remind you, or make yourself accountable to friends. Above all, just do it.

 
Patricia Carswell is a freelance journalist and award-winning blogger specialising in health and fitness. She has written for the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian, the Observer, the Independent, Times Online, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, Metro and a wide variety of national magazines and websites. She blogs at www.sportyoverforty.com and www.girlontheriver.com and has a particular interest in fitness for the over-40s.