Which exercise routine should I do?

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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!

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