I am a 65-year old man, reasonably fit and healthy with no disabilities, but I do not do any regular exercise other than walking an old dog and the usual DIY. I am interested in starting a regular exercise routine. Can you advise what would be suitable?
By the age of 65 men start to notice a real decline in muscle strength and lung power, and arthriticky aches and pains begin to interfere with how well the joints move. But much of this is reversible. Your priorities should be cardio (heart and lung) training, muscle and bone strength, and flexibility. Aim to cover all aspects three times a week.
The only activities I would caution against are those that are very high impact and energetic, if you are not already a regular exerciser or sportsman. If you really yearn to try out long-distance running, squash or judo, get on the internet and find a seniors’ coach for some expert advice.
That said, you have many options. Cardio activities are the rhythmic, regular ones that get you breathing hard, such as power walk, jog, cycling, swimming. Some, such as rowing, are also excellent muscle builders. Other strengthening activities include all the gym machines. Many sports give you a bit of a combined muscle and cardio workout (eg, badminton, hockey, tennis). Others, such as golf and bowls, will encourage you to keep flexible. You should do regular stretching – at a minimum for your front and rear thighs, calves and chest; and keep your body in the habit of making big movements (your DIY may already be helping with this).
So how to decide on your programme? Above all, choose activities you think you’ll enjoy– otherwise it’ll be hard to keep up the effort once the novelty wears off. Try these questions to help you focus your thoughts: Are there any sports or activities you used to love doing but lost the habit of? Are there any you’ve always fancied learning but never got around to? Does the thought of working out in a gym make you feel curious or horrified? Do you prefer doing exercise indoors or out? Would you rather be alone, or would you like exercise to be a way of meeting new people? Are you very competitive?
Next, consider convenience: if you want to return to playing tennis, are there affordable courts or a club nearby? If it’s swimming you fancy, is there a local pool? Hill-walking is fantastic but hard to do regularly if you live in the middle of a big city. It is crucial that your chosen exercise is easy and convenient to undertake two or three times a week.
Lastly, look on this new routine as a chance to learn new tricks, mentally and physically. Don’t be afraid to tackle new skills (eg, tap dance, tai chi, table tennis, archery etc) – the extra brain work is very anti-ageing!