Six easy ways to improve your health and fitness

The Australian Department of health recommends a minimum of 150 minutes per week of cardiovascular exercise to maintain and or improve your fitness. This can be split into 30 minutes on most weekdays – that’s just 3 x 10-minute sessions a day! Here are just some tips to help you succeed.

1. Bust those exercise excuses
It’s important to recognise that age is no barrier to improving your fitness and, if age is your only concern, this is definitely no excuse to avoid getting active. It’s never too late to work on your health, even if you haven’t exercised much throughout your life. Very few health or weight problems will stop you entirely from exercising and if you cannot do the full 150 minutes a week due to having chronic conditions, you should still try to be as physically active as your abilities allow. If you’re unsure, talk to your doctor about what would be safe for you to do. It’s OK to start small and build momentum. 

Setting aside time for exercise and physical activity is a worthy investment in your health. If you have the time to watch an episode of your favourite television show, you may be surprised to find that on average, ads take up around 15 minutes of every hour of television between 6pm and midnight. It’s your decision to make exercise a priority, and taking the time to do exercise in short sessions can be just as effective as one long session. Why not start off with doing some heel raises or squats during the ad breaks? Or better yet, hop on the treadmill or exercise bike when you’re watching your favourite show? 

2. Be active every day in as many ways as you can
As counter-intuitive as it sounds, there are health benefits from doing things that aren’t specifically ‘exercise’ to improve your overall fitness.  By adding in opportunities for increased physical activity throughout your day, you can build your body’s overall capacity for exercise. We’re given many opportunities to increase our physical activity in our everyday lives that are both easy to do and won’t take up much time in your day.  Some examples include taking the stairs instead of the escalator, walking at golf instead of using the buggy, playing with your grandchildren or pets instead of watching them… the list goes on. When you consider the benefits of exercise it shouldn’t be a difficult choice to seize an easy opportunity to sneak in some healthy physical activity throughout your day.

3. Find exercises that you enjoy doing
Exercise is something that should challenge your body, so naturally, we’re going to find ways to avoid it. However, finding a mode of exercise that you enjoy – whether it’s doing a dance class or joining your local lawn bowls club –will motivate you to stay on track to being fit. Think back to when you were younger – were there any hobbies you enjoyed? Do you love watching a good game of cricket? Why not try going back to playing social cricket with some friends or at your local club, or rediscover your love of the water with aqua aerobics. 

4. Make sure you’re exercising smarter, not harder
It’s important that you do the exercises at the appropriate intensity for you. Since each person is different, an easy way to measure the exercise intensity is how tired you feel while doing the exercise (also known as your rate of perceived exertion).  It’s important to exercise at what we call a moderate intensity for optimum health benefits. Moderate exercise should make you feel like you can still talk, but you can’t sing the words to a song. Examples of activities that are moderate intensity for most people include going for a brisk walk (which you could do with your dog), doing some gardening or having a great time dancing to tunes from your younger days.

It’s also important to note that there are many different kinds of exercises designed to work on different things. In addition to doing exercise to get your heart pumping and lungs working, there are also strengthening exercises using weights or resistance bands to improve your ability to do hard work or carry groceries (or small children), flexibility exercises to maintain your range of motion, and balance exercises to improve your ability to navigate even the trickiest of terrains. Every person is different and may have different exercise priorities. If you’re interested in learning more about what kind of exercise types would benefit you the most, speak to your local physiotherapist and ask them to develop a tailored plan to help you meet your goals.

5. Be patient with yourself
If you’re finding it difficult to get started, keep in mind that it will take time for your body to adapt to exercise and it’s important to allow the appropriate time for improvements. Regardless of how much you’re able to do to start with, regular exercise is highly beneficial for anyone aged 65 or over. Build a routine by setting a particular time and place for the exercises you’ve decided on. 

6. Get some help from a health professional
It’s always best to check in with your local health professional to make sure what you’re doing is appropriate for you If you’re living in a retirement community you should have access to physiotherapy services in your own home. They can help guide you on the best way to progress your exercises and keep you on track to reach your fitness goals.

Original article written by The Physio Co.

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