A4Y front

Key elements for seniors to maintain an active healthy life:

We are all getting older.... as we do so (and probably because you reading this) there is a need to consider whether we think about 'fitness' in the right way.

What should Fitness be about? - the clue is in the name - its about good health and more importantly being healthy to operate in the environment we find ourselves and behave (move) as we would like.

Fitness is often promoted as something you do in a gym as a 'workout', but whilst that may suit some people it is possible to achieve the benefits of good fitness without any special fitness app, gym or even equipment (in fact evidence shows that moving more throughout the day is better for you than exercising for 1 hour each day and then sitting still for the rest).

Overall research indicates that

  • anyone can benefit from increasing movement and 'exercise', those who currently do least, benefit the most - so we can all benefit.
  • as we get older we may not achieve, or need to undertake, the intensity of exercise that we have achieved, but ideally we should try to increase the amount of time that we are moving.
  • The health benefits appear to be many, improving heart health, which may contribute to reduced risk of heart attack and diabetes, improved immunity, better ability to recover from virus's, stronger bones and joints, improved mental health and ability.


Too often fitness is promoted around themes of body image - what other people see - but its now time to think about yourself!.

If you have been trying to develop the perfect body for the past 50 years or more you may have realised that is hard! You need a body to keep you active and healthy for many years and that starts from within.

What is a 'perfect ' body? - every human is slightly different so you can only be perfect for yourself.

However focusing on what goes on within your body is more likely to help you to get to where you want to be, it will ensure you keep moving which means an ability to use up more energy and strengthen muscles.

SUSTAINABLE IMPROVEMENT - No more quick fixes!:

Many fitness messages are about quick fixes - whether its a 'six week diet plan' .... 'fat loss' .....'build bigger arms' .. etc....etc.

Sadly experience shows these quick fixes often don't work, are not sustainable and can cause more harm than good. They often lead  to injury or over exercising (which - sorry to say - can be as bad for you as doing nothing).

The best and sensible approach is to build up and improve slowly.

It is beneficial to challenge yourself - if only a little! - but only when you know what you are capable of and then by increasing slowly. Sometimes people try to resume an activity which they feel confident of, but have not undertaken for a while and end up with an injury. A simple example of this is when people injure themselves after resuming heavy garden work when they have not done any during the winter.

Sadly as we get older the elasticity of our joints become less.

Improvement is not always possible, but without aiming to improve, there is a danger that if you don't you will slowly lose what you have - which is explained more below!

USE IT (all of it) or LOSE IT:

Our bodies are very complex, when we move, we do so in an integrated way - often  engaging many of our 206 bones and of our 640 interconnected muscles. So if you hear someone refer to an exercise that improves a specific muscle you need to ask "what do I need to do to improve the rest of them?"!.

If we only move parts of our bodies in limited directions then we will find we can't move in other ways - more importantly limiting movements in one direction can restrict or weaken your movement overall.

Keeping moving in real life means being able to move in all functional planes - not just one direction. Many 'traditional' exercise programmes focus on one plane, but life is not like that 100% of the time.

It is important to ensure that we move in all planes: backwards, forwards, left right side to side. - etc - how we were designed to move. This ensures we keep all our muscles working as they are intended and can cope with the variability that life throws at us.

As we continue to age there is a danger that our range of movement becomes more limited.

Our bodies work like a 'pendulum' where the swing of the pendulum (our range of movement) slowly decreases unless we provide some form of 'spring' to keep moving through the whole range.

Just lifting your hand to your nose engages over a dozen muscles.

When we are younger it is easy to forget about this - our muscles and joints are more elastic and we can get by.....untill one day we find ourselves with a bad back, knee or can't lift something up.

Equally life time experiences may limit some of our movement over time. I have heard people describe how a particular incident or injury has led to a restriction of movement. Too often people are not given the full support (eg Physio), or give up exercising to fully repair movement as part of their recovery. As we age the period of recovery takes longer and with certain injuries may never be fully gained, but more can often be achieved and a delay in not moving makes this more difficult (although not alway impossible).

The danger is if we feel uncomfortable in one position we use it less..... if we use it less we will find it even move uncomfortable and move even less!

So we need to maintain (or improve) our range of movement.

The 'Use it or you will lose it' phrase is never more relevant!.

So to counter the 'deconditioning' swing of lifes movement pendulum you need to adopt a 'spring' to AT LEAST:

a) maintain your range of movement

b) slowly try to re-gain flexibility and movement range

As highlighted above regarding the need to try to improve your 'spring' to combat any loss, means challenging yourself from time to time ie:

  • movements which demonstrably increase your heart rate
  • movements which use your muscles untill they are close to exhaustion

Once again the best way to achieve this is through slow, progressive improvement but with the aim of identifying when you are challenging your heart and other muscles.

For this reason - unless you have a specific need - many of the exercise machines you see in a gym are less than ideal for general use - as these tend to be 'isolation' machines to focus on one particular muscle / group.

In addition more research is highlighting how important movement is to brain health too.!

Types of Movement you should be doing:

The Key Ingredients:

  • Endurance: Undertaking activities that get your heart pumping more in a sustained way.
  • Strength: Challenging your muscles to keep them strong
  • Balance: Maintaining an ability to balance
  • Moving often - NOT staying sitting down for long periods of time

and with these:

  • Walking
  • Sleeping and rest: Whilst moving gently is good intensive exercise is only good for short periods and when it is combined with good sleep and rest.
  • Eating well: Eating real nutrient rich food