It’s never too late to start exercising. And it’s never too soon to get going. As we age, staying fit and active isn’t really about flaunting our gorgeous bodies or running marathons. It’s about keeping body and brain in good condition: alert, strong, steady and mobile. The benefits can be dramatic and life-enhancing
In this section of the website you’ll find lots of advice, information and specific exercises to set you on the right track to becoming fitter. But first, take a moment to read this bit about about staying safe when you exericse.
There are a few safety guidelines that all exercisers should follow, so you don’t end up doing an injury or worse. Understand, above all, that exercise is never a quick fix: Ageing bodies take a little time to get the message and start strengthening up. Older brains take a while to get used to new tricks. Stay focused on the medium term to judge your progress, rather than expecting miracles inside a week.
Elsewhere in the Body Maintenance Manual
|How exercise works: understand your body and how to get best resultsThe Body MOT: exercises for absolute beginnersGuidelines for stretchingWorking with weights and other strengthening equipmentWay to walk: tips on good walking habitsUpstairs, downstairs: how to use your stairs to get fit
Upstairs, downstairs: why stair-climbing is brilliant exercise, and how to build steps into your life
Exercise search: click through to the list of exercises or use the search box in the top right corner of the screen to find an exercise
If you have a health condition or disability, check with your doctor before you start to exercise. Questions you may want to raise:
- Can exercise help with my condition(s)?
- Will exercise make anything worse for me?
- Are there particular types of exercise that are best for me?
- Are there specific types of exercise I should avoid or be wary of?
You could also check the websites of any major support organisations for your disability /condition(s) for their exercise /activity advice.
Work out only when well
It is always a bad idea to exercise when you are unwell. If you live with major medical conditions or disabilities, the line between well and unwell can be fuzzy. A good rule of thumb is to lay off the exercise on days when you are feeling worse than whatever is normal for you. If you have cough, cold, extreme breathlessness, dizziness, arthritic flare-up, extreme tiredness, feel shivery or any other feeling of unwellness, do not exercise. Wait a day or a week until you feel normal again.
Come back gently
When re-starting exercise after illness, always start again gently – doing less than before you got ill. The body needs a week or two to get back into its stride.
Listen to pain
If a specific exercise or movement causes a painful reaction, stop doing it. Read the next section, which includes more information on reactions to exercise. This may help you decide whether to try that movement again. If in doubt, steer clear of it. Never just push on through pain: it will not do you good and may cause injury or worse.
Understand the effects of food and drink
♦ Try to avoid doing exercises without having eaten anything that day. And if you are doing energetic exercise, such as a long walk or swim, eat a decent snack about 30 minutes beforehand
♦ Avoid exercising straight after a big meal
♦ Keep hydrated: aim to drink water regularly during the day and especially during your exercise session
♦ Tea and coffee are poor substitutes for water when you need to rehydrate
Dress for the occasion
Wear comfortable warm clothing and proper footwear. You don’t need trainers if you’re doing exercises at home. But neither should you be wearing old slippers, high heels or other dodgy footwear. Flat, supportive, non-slip shoes are best.
Know how much is the right amount
Check the instructions on each exercise to see how often you can safely practise it. Any exercise which just involves you and your body is OK to do every day. But exercises that use weights, stretchy bands or other weight-training equipment should only be repeated after a full day’s rest – which means every other day at most
Allergic to exercise?
♦ If you have an emergency inhaler or angina spray, always have it with you during exercise. Exercise can trigger asthma attack or angina in some people on some occasions. Be prepared
♦ Some of the exercises in the Body Maintenance Manual use a stretchy exercise band. If you are allergic to latex or similar materials, you will need a hypo-allergenic version
♦ If you suddenly get very breathless, feel faint or develop chest pain while exercising, you should immediately stop and get help. It could be an emergency.
Guidelines for stretching