Karl Henry: The easy fitness routine proven to slow down the ageing process
How did you get on with the first week of your ageing well challenge? We have had some great feedback on last week's tips, proving that these simple lifestyle swaps really do make a difference to your health and your body as it gets that little bit older.
In today's column, the second in our Ageing Well series, I am going to try to get you to exercise more! Exercise is one of the simplest, most effective and most beneficial ways to keep your body young, to protect the body as it gets older and to actually improve your mental health. Your body loses muscle and stores fat as you age. It also becomes weaker. Therefore, it is crucial to try to counteract this: the fitter and stronger you are as you get older, the better you will age.
I recently met Micheal Ó Muircheartaigh who, at 88 years of age, still climbs Mount Brandon every year and keeps active. He looks fit, healthy and well, and he is an incredible poster boy for healthy ageing. In old age, trips and falls are incredibly dangerous, often leading to more serious ailments. They often happen due to weakness and poor balance, but exercise is proven to reduce this risk. This week, try to integrate these tips into your day and don't be afraid to go for it!
Stand for your heart
Standing more is possibly the simplest exercise you can do to age well. It is going to become one of the biggest recommendations in the coming years as we know that it is associated with a reduction in cardiovascular disease. When you sit in a chair, the chair does everything for your body. Your body isn't working and becomes weak. By standing, you are forcing the muscles in your body to do the work, and you are activating your legs, your back, your glutes and your core. It's a simple switch that could just save your life.
Work that little bit harder
Exercise is fantastic, but sometimes if you aren't working hard enough then the benefits can be limited. This is especially true as you age. You want to promote muscle growth and maintenance as well as improve your aerobic function, so you need to ensure you are working hard enough to get the benefits. As always, aim to get slightly out of breath while still being able to hold a conversation.
Don't neglect your flexibility
Flexibility is a crucial but often neglected form of exercise, especially in men! As you get older you generally get tighter and you risk pulling and straining muscles. So you need to do some yoga, tai chi or Pilates to help combat the ageing process.
Don't resist resistance
Now that you are more flexible, you need to lift weights or just your own body weight. Resistance training is the best way to slow ageing and age better: there is nothing that it doesn't improve. Squats, lunges, tricep dips and planks are all simple exercises that you can do at home. Otherwise you could consider working alongside a personal trainer.
Straighten that posture
As you age, your posture will weaken. Your head begins to place more pressure on your back, pulling the posture forward. So you need to counteract this. Any form of exercise will help to strengthen the muscles of the back, shoulders and neck. Simply being more aware of how you sit or stand can make a big difference too.
Strong core equals a strong body. Your core is the centre of your body and it is important for posture but also for daily tasks. Targeted exercise will improve your core strength, while pulling your bellybutton toward your spine and tensing the muscles at random intervals during the day can really improve this area too.
Walk more and farther
Our bodies become weaker, less fit and more frail when we don't walk. So I want you to get more walking into your day, less transport and more movement. It will really improve your body and mind.
The body needs air and lots of it. Generally we don't breathe enough or use the full capacity of our lungs. A simple way to improve this is to focus on breathing in for five seconds and out for five seconds.
It's easy to get stuck in the comfort zone as we age. Counteract this by facing your fears and registering for an event or a race that pushes you to do something you never thought you could.
There is always a way
As a final point, no matter what happens on your journey, whether it's injuries, medication or whatever other roadblock comes in the way, just remember that there is always a way of setting goals, progressing and achieving results. So don't take no for an answer and just keep pushing forward!