It’s easy to make excuses for the lack of physical activity in our lives: busy jobs, family and personal commitments or getting older. Or maybe you just don’t see the point of exercise.
Being active reduces your chances of becoming obese and developing serious illness, including heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. Even a short session of activity can be beneficial – and not only for your waistline. Exercise is well-known for producing endorphins which reduce stress levels and make people feel happier.
The irony is that the less you feel like exercising, the more likely you need to be out there doing it – not just to improve your physical health but for your mental well-being too. There’s nothing like going for a brisk walk to blow the cobwebs away and a nice, slow swim can be really relaxing.
If you are caring for someone, it’s essential you look after your own health. Arrange a short break from your caring duties and use your free time to do something active.
Staying active as you get older
If you have always been active, it’s likely you will take up new activities throughout your life which match your physical capabilities.
Outdoor activities like walking, golf, gardening and bowls are a great way of staying active as you get older and will help you to retain muscle and bone strength.
Walking is a particularly good form of exercise because it is easy to incorporate into your lifestyle and requires no special equipment. A brisk stroll several times a week can do wonders for your fitness levels.
Many councils promote local walks or search for routes on websites like All Trails, Walking World and Strava. You can download GPX files to make it easier to navigate.
If you don’t want to walk alone, why not join a local walking or Ramblers Cymru group?
Age Cymru encourages people over 50 to stay healthy and active with a range of activities, including low impact functional training, walking and Nordic walking.
The University of the Third Age has groups across Wales. Indoor activities vary but most arrange regular walks. Other activities include dancing, bowls, gardening, easy movement, Tai Chi and table tennis (depending on location).
It’s also a good idea to incorporate activities which encourage flexibility, balance and co-ordination such as Pilates, yoga, Tai Chi and swimming.
Swimming tones your whole body, reduces stress and is a relatively risk-free way of getting fit (there is no stress on your bones or joints in the water).
People over 60 can usually swim free of charge at selected times at local leisure centres (usually outside school holidays). Some centres also offer free aqua workouts and swimming lessons. Check with your local pool.
Dancing is another enjoyable way to introduce activity into your life. Whether it’s ballroom dancing, Latin and salsa or line dancing, the time will pass quickly. Join a class or put some music on at home and dance around.
Getting involved with sports
If you’ve always been a bit of an armchair enthusiastic, why not consider taking part in the sports you love watching? There is plenty to choose from, including team sports, athletics and indoor sports. Many mainstream sports can be enjoyed by people of all abilities, including disabled people. Visit Sports Wales to find out what’s happening in your area.
Disability Sports Wales also has 750 clubs and sessions across Wales. Activities range from canoeing and outdoor pursuits to cricket, football, netball and martial arts. Find out what’s going on in your area, search for a local club or contact the Disability Sports Development Officer at your local council.
National Exercise Referral Scheme
If you are at risk of developing a chronic disease and are not used to being physically active, your GP or another health professional might arrange for you to attend a supervised exercise programme for £2 per session under the National Exercise Referral Scheme.