The Importance Of Exercise As We Age

The World Health Organisation identifies 50 years of age as the point in middle age at which engaging in regular physical exercise can prevent or delay the onset of many of the physical, psychological and social hazards that are associated with increasing age[1]. These hazards include heart disease, arthritis, osteoporosis, and obesity. Physical activity is beneficial for maintaining health as we age and thereby enhancing quality of life.

As your body ages the following changes take place -

  • Muscle mass declines, which affects the ability to pick up and carry heavy objects or even shopping.
  • Bone mineral density decreases, therefore the skeleton can become brittle and bones are more likely to fracture. One in two women and one in five men over the age of 50 in the UK will fracture a bone, mainly as a result of osteoporosis[2].
  • VO2 max (the body’s ability to utilise oxygen) declines with both age and under use and this can bring about functional limitations such as reducing the ability to walk for long periods of time.
  • Decrease in the basal metabolic rate, which are the calories needed for daily activity. This can lead to increases in body fat.
However regular, targeted physical exercise can countermand all these changes as it makes your bones and muscles stronger. When your muscles are strong, you're less likely to fall. If you do fall, strong bones are less likely to break. Studies have shown that is a combination of cardiovascular work and strength training that produces the best results with an increase of lean mass and reduction in body fat in older adults.
In addition to the physical benefits studies have also shown that regular physical activity is good for your brain [3] and is also associated with a reduced risk of developing depressive symptoms; regular brisk walking could improve learning ability, concentration, and abstract reasoning.
The Chief Medical Officer’s current recommendation is that 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise be taken at least 5 times a week. This could be brisk walking, cycling or swimming. In addition muscular strength and endurance exercises that involve all major muscle groups should be done on up to 4 days per week. These guidelines are targets rather than a starting point for exercise and the types of exercise should depend on an individual’s abilities.
50 and older is a great time to start a daily exercise routine. The immediate benefits of exercise include relaxation, stress and anxiety reduction, and enhanced mood.
Long-term benefits include
  • weight loss
  • increased strength
  • balance increases
  • improved mental health
  • motor control benefits

These all lead to an increase in the overall quality of life. Whole Life Fitness can help you include exercise into your daily routine so you can continue to do the things you enjoy and stay independent as you age. However if you don't live near Chichester then please feel free to leave a comment/question and I will do my best to answer.

[1] The Heidelberg guidelines for promoting physical activity among older persons ( Geneva, World Health Organization,

[2] Figure from National Osteoporosis Society.

[3] Physical activity and risk of cognitive impairment and dementia in elderly persons

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