To stay healthy or improve your health as an older adult, the NHS recommends 150 minutes of exercise each week.
To meet the guidelines, a combination of activities that incorporate both aerobic and strength exercises is best.
Adjusting your mindset
A major stumbling block for people of all ages is finding the time and the motivation to exercise regularly. For many, exercise is something we do to lose or maintain our weight – without realising, we associate negative connotations to exercise and feel less inclined to go to the gym or get active as a result.
In reality, having a good level of strength and fitness isn’t just about vanity – we need to be strong and mobile to support daily movement, maintain independence as we age, protect our bones, regulate our blood sugar and lower our blood pressure. Add to that benefits like stress release and the opportunity to socialise, and there’s no reason not to take an active interest in staying active.
150 minutes may feel like an unattainable target, but in reality this works out to just over 20 minutes each day.
You could exercise a little each day, alternating between aerobic and strength-building activities, do a few longer sessions during the week, or save the bulk of your exercise for one or two vigorous workouts – like your weekly tennis match, for example – for the weekends.
There’s no right or wrong way to go about doing it; the best exercise routine is one you enjoy and are motivated to stick to.
Moderate aerobic activity
Moderate aerobic activity is anything that raises your heart rate, makes you breathe faster and feel warmer. During moderate exercise you should still be able to talk, but perhaps would struggle to sing the words to a song. Some activities that count include:
- Line dancing
- Doubles tennis
- Pushing a lawnmower
- Cycling to your local shop
Vigorous aerobic activity
Vigorous activity is the next level up – this style of exercise makes you breathe hard and fast, and would prevent you from saying more than a few words at a time while doing it. 75 minutes of vigorous activity offers similar benefits to 150 minutes of moderate activity – meaning if you’re short on time, one or two vigorous workout sessions a week is enough to maintain health. Some activities that count include:
- Swimming fast
- Singles tennis
- Hiking and hillwalking
- Mountain biking
- Jogging and running
The third area that’s important is strength training, and one that main people avoid. It doesn’t need to be complicated however, and there are plenty of strength exercises you can do without the need for an expensive gym membership or a personal trainer. If you have some free weights at home or a kettlebell, you can incorporate a few sets – 12 repetitions – of common exercises like squats and bicep curls from the comfort of your own home. Likewise, programmes like the NHS Strength and Flexibility plan offer a free fitness coach that you can do at home or in your local park without any equipment. Some other activities that count as strength training include:
- Carrying heavy loads, such as groceries
- Heavy gardening
- Push ups and sit ups
- Weight lifting
So tell us: do you have a regular exercise routine? How often do you meet the 150-minute target? Let us know in the comments below!