Health

Thursday 24 July 2014

Karl Henry: Fitness and strength key to living longer

Catherina McKiernan - It's common now to see older people running and keeping fit

I have no interest in losing weight but is there any benefit to doing some training?

Of course there is. Being overweight and unfit is the ultimate recipe for poor health. With 60pc of the Irish population classed as overweight, there is a serious need for information and knowledge to help overweight people improve their fitness levels.

Ideally weight loss would be important as part of any plan, but many people are happy as they are and their weight is just something they don't want to know about.

That's cool, but if that's the case you need to do your best to get fit. We know that the fitter you are, the healthier and happier you will be and the cost of your medical bills will be lower.

Ever notice how you get out of breath going upstairs? Or walking from a carpark?

This is your aerobic fitness level telling you that it can't move your body around as it would like. If you want to measure it properly take your resting pulse rate.

Place your index finger on the inside of your wrist (the radial artery) or side of your neck (the carotid artery), count for 15 seconds and multiply by four, what number did you get?

If your number is over 70 you have work to do. Keep track of this number and aim to get it as low as possible. My resting pulse at the moment is 42, you should aim to get yours down below 60 if possible.

To improve this, you need to move more with exercise such as walking, cycling or swimming, ensuring that your breath rate is elevated while your doing it.

This ensures your heart and lungs are working hard enough for peak benefits. You should always be able to hold a conversation when exercising but be slightly out of breath.

This is when you will gain the most benefits from a workout. If you aren't getting out of breath at all then it's too easy.

The next element of fitness you should be looking to improve is the strength of your muscles. The heavier you are, the more pressure is placed upon your joints. This increases your risk of arthritis and osteoporosis.

Weight-bearing exercises, such as squats and lunges, are the best way to improve the muscles of the legs and hips, even walking up a set of stairs will do.

The stronger your muscles, the lower the risk of joint-related problems in later life. Ireland's levels of bone-related problems are worryingly high. By getting fitter and stronger, you will improve your life expectancy and improve your health.

Weight loss will help this even more, but if you decide that you don't want to lose weight, you need to ensure that you move more and sit less.

I hope that this advice will give you all the tools you need to assess your fitness levels, to measure it yourself and track your progress.

Now what you need to do is get out there, get active and get that number down. The tools are there, the benefits are there, the rest I'm afraid, is up to you.

Health & Living

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