I was recently commissioned by Bathing Solutions to give my thoughts on how to stay active over 55, particularly for those who may have mobility issues or be a little less agile than they used to be.
Lots of us view exercise as a chore – something we ‘have’ to do. It’s a better idea if you can make that mental shift, to consider it as a valuable self-care activity.
There are a lot of different types of self-care activities, from drawing or writing in a journal, to taking a bath or eating right. But exercise releases those happy endorphins to relieve stress, give you some alone time and keep your joints and circulatory system working.
Here are some ideas you might like to try to keep as active as possible.
One of the most important things you can do to keep active is to make sure you keep up with your daily routine. It’s so tempting, now that the dark nights have set in and it’s colder, to languish in an armchair binge-watching Four In A Bed, but the less you do… the less you can do.
I know this only too well from my mother’s experience. She broke her hip last year and despite walking regularly, she is much slower and less stable on her feet than she once was. Health issues like back and joint pain also require a programme of activity which your doctor or physiotherapist may suggest – as well as medication or supplements such as Omega 3 Oils and Glucosamine.
You may also find adjusting your diet and removing some of the more acidic foods may help.
The simple tasks that were previously taken for granted – washing, cooking, even going up and downstairs have all become much more of a challenge.
Home adaptations are certainly a good way forward if you can afford them – and talk to your local health authority because you may be entitled to a grant for these in some areas. But if not, consider introducing one or two items that will make the most difference to your daily life, such as a walk in shower or bath, a stairlift or simple installation of a handrail or sloping step where needed.
So what else can you do?
Walking is probably one of the best exercises you can do for overall health and self-care. It is easy to do with a lot of flexibility, doesn’t cost anything, and can be done alone or with others.
If you have dogs, you can take them for a walk around the neighbourhood or, depending on your level of fitness and mobility, go hiking. You can walk alone during your morning break at work to de-stress, or walk in the evenings with your kids for some family time. Walking alone also helps you to really focus your thoughts and provide much needed private time.
Yoga is another really good exercise for all-over fitness, flexibility and self-care. It is often done in combination with mindfulness meditation and similar relaxation techniques. With yoga, you learn proper breathing techniques to relax your body and mind and help to relieve your stress. Yoga can also be good for your physical fitness, helping to tone your body and improve your flexibility. You can either try yoga at home or take a class if you want to get out and learn from an instructor.
There are loads of free Yoga classes you can access via YouTube.
This is a fun activity that is good for physical health and can be wonderful for your mental health as well. You can also dance in your home, but when you go out to dance, you are benefiting in multiple ways.
For one thing, you may enjoy yourself so much you may find yourself dancing for far longer than you might spend on other forms of exercise, burning lots of calories and releasing endorphins at the same time.
It also encourages you to get out of the house and be more social, which can be great for your stress and depression.
Don’t forget that going out can be good for you when you feel like you spend too much time at home, but aren’t sure where to go.
There are so many types of dancing but just moving your body in time to the music however the mood takes you is fine. The point is to move.
There are also some of the less traditional ways to exercise, like going indoor rock climbing, heading to an indoor trampoline centre, or taking a barre method class. These workouts provide the same good amount of exercise but help you try new things at the same time.
If mobility is an issue, pilates, yoga or tai chi may be better choices. Make sure you choose an instructor who is properly qualified to teach you. Your local physiotherapy practice should be able to recommend someone suitable near to you.
And don’t forget how important it is to keep a strong network of friends and companions so don’t be afraid to invite your friends to join you in your quest to stay active. It’s good for your health, both physical and mental and who knows, you may even encourage your kids to put their iPads down and join you!