Exercise is one of the most important things we can do for our mental and physical health. No matter what our age, keeping fit and active can steer us away from disease and add years to our lives.

And though some people find exercise routines harder to maintain as they get older, keeping active in later life is a crucial component of a happy and healthy retirement.

So let’s take a look at some of the reasons why exercising at 65 and beyond is one of the best things we can do for ourselves. 

(Please note: if you’re thinking about increasing your exercise levels significantly, remember to consult your GP first.)

The basics

Ideally, everyone should be doing two types of exercise per week: aerobic and strength.

According to Age UK, people aged 65 and over who are generally fit, with no mobility-limiting health conditions, should try to do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week.

The NHS add to this, recommending additional strength training on two separate days. They also advise that you can swap out the 150 minutes of moderate exercise for 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, if you’d prefer.

 

Some moderate aerobic exercises include:

– Walking.

– Water aerobics.

– Ballroom and line dancing.

– Riding a bike (on level ground).

– Pushing a lawn mower.

 

Some vigorous aerobic exercises include:

– Jogging or running.

– Swimming fast.

– Energetic dancing.

– Martial arts.

– Hiking uphill.

 

The NHS “Physical activity guidelines for older adults” factsheet also says, Older adults who participate in any amount of physical activity gain some health benefits, including maintenance of good physical and cognitive function. Some physical activity is better than none, and more physical activity provides greater health benefits.” 

Independence and quality of life

Regular exercise increases strength and flexibility. This, in turn, improves coordination and balance. Not only can this help us to maintain mobility and independence in later life, but it can also work to prevent injury. 

The NHS says that around 1 in 3 adults over 65 who live at home will have at least one fall a year, and half of these will fall more frequently.

According to Age UK, falls “account for more than 50 per cent of hospital admissions for accidental injury. Evidence shows that specific programmes for improving strength and balance can reduce the risk of falls by as much as 55 per cent.”

Adding to this, Michelle Mitchell (who is the Charity Director of Age UK) also said, “Despite costing the NHS over £4.6 million each day, adding up to £1.7 billion per year, the issue of people in later life falling over is all too often dismissed as an inevitable part of the ageing process. The reality is that there are a number of things older people can do help prevent falls, such as exercises to improve strength and balance, and more should be done to promote and support this.”

A research review showed that people who exercise regularly could reduce their risk of developing around 2 dozen health conditions. They could also, it stated, slow down how quickly their bodies age.

Sleep quality

Sleeping disorders can have an incredibly negative impact on our quality of life. And they affect many people in the UK and beyond, especially older adults. WebMD says that nearly half of men and women over 65 say they have at least one sleep problem.

Luckily, however, a remedy for sleep conditions could lie in regular exercise. An article on sleepfoundation.org, commenting on the findings of a study that was conducted on the link between sleep and exercise, says that 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a week, which is the national guideline, provided a 65 percent improvement in sleep quality. People also said they felt less sleepy during the day, compared to those with less physical activity”.

One thing to bear in mind, however, is that exercise is by no means a quick fix for poor sleep. In one study, it was found that individual exercise sessions had no immediate effect on sleep, and even after two months of regular exercise there were still no significant improvements. After 16 weeks, however, the participants reported a significant increase in both the quality and quantity of their sleep.

This suggests that exercise may be a slow but steady path to improving our sleep in the long term. So don’t despair if your new exercise routine doesn’t reap immediate sleep improvements—you just need to stick at it!

Exercise for life

All said and done, regular exercise can be the key to a happier, healthier, and longer life. And there’s no reason whatsoever why age should be a factor in deterring us from getting up and keeping fit.

For more on the benefits of exercise, see Tai Chi: The Gentle Path To A Healthier Life, and 5 Impressive Health Benefits Of Swimming.