Being active differs from being sociable, although obviously the two overlap.

When my children were young I spent plenty of time at Ballet, Horse Riding, Ice Skating, Football and Rugby. I never actually took part in any of these activities, I merely drove the car. I felt I was always on the move and interacting although, in reality, I was being a social parent not an athlete!

When time permitted I tried to maintain a general state of fitness by going to the gym, walking and swimming. Although, I have recently become more aware that this activity was more about my mental health than physical ability. I recently challenged myself to complete the ‘Couch 2 5Km’ training programme and downloaded the App. (https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/get-running-with-couch-to-5k/)

As anyone who has read my posts relating to the experience will know – I did not find it easy (http://perpetually49.com/couch-2-5km/). Alongside learning that I was not as fit as I thought I was, I also learnt it is easier to improve general fitness when younger. I am sure the 30-year-old me would have found it more enjoyable and less strenuous a task.

That is not to say you shouldn’t try – having completed the 9 weeks programme I do feel the benefit. I also know I will keep up the activity – today should have been a ‘running day’ but it is raining. Earlier this year I would have been relieved, today I ran up and downstairs for 10 minutes instead.

There are many web sites offering health and activity tips – I have listed some below that I felt had some useful information. Guess there is nothing surprising in any of them although good to be reminded of some of the general levels of fitness we should aim for to improve the chances of a mobile and healthy old age.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/beauty/body/fit-should-age-checklist-might-surprise/ – has a good guide as to what you should be able to do, as a starter.

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/exercise-and-fitness-as-you-age.htm – this is an easy read and very encouraging in that it answers many questions you may already be thinking. The idea to be fit is not about training for a marathon but to keep mobile both physically and mentally.

https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/health-wellbeing/fitness/ – this also has a link to activities in your local area (in UK) which leads me on to how fitness can be improved and/or maintained.

There are many ways to improve and maintain fitness and many cost little or nothing. The simplest is to walk – briskly 3 times a walk for approx. 30 minutes each time (walking briskly, from what I understand, is where you feel slightly breathless but can still talk) Challenging yourself to walk a longer distance over the 30 minutes will demonstrate that you are achieving an increase in your ability. 

I have a small pedometer in my pocket that tracks both steps and Kms as well as an App on my phone that shows distance and the route. A Fitbit sounds just a little too much technology for me and the two ‘gadgets’ I have mentioned are enough for me to track my activity.

Local gyms, often, offer ‘off peak’ membership fees and some local schools and colleges open their facilities to the public in the evenings and weekends for a small fee – this is worth checking out as many will be within walking distance. Village/town halls are rented by independent fitness instructors, yoga teachers etc and again – these are inexpensive and also provide an opportunity to socialise within the community.

Increasingly opportunities present themselves that perhaps when working you could not participate in – or know of. Walking Football is new to me although looks a fun way to both exercise and meet new people. (https://thewfa.co.uk/ also type ‘walkingfootball’ into YouTube for some examples)

And, it does not have to be ‘sweaty’ – a regular round of golf provides walking, stretching, load carrying and fresh air. I regularly attended a Tai Chi class, gentle movement but still enhanced my fitness and agility. I regularly ache after a yoga session.

If you are a member of a gym it is also worth checking out the activity programmes that many provide, these are commonly within the monthly fee so will not cost you any extra. The leisure club I attend surprised me with its list. I had not paid attention when working and just used the gym – now I am investigating the possibilities.

Also, good to remember that keeping physically fit is shown to also benefit mental fitness and slow cognitive decline. Research papers (aagh! I know, but are worth the read) do explain the reasons that exercise assists in maintaining brain health as well as physical health. The web links I have inserted below are relatively short and are ‘readable’. 

Cognitive decline and Dementia are referred to in newspapers practically daily. Whilst there is no cure, at present, there is evidence that progression of the disease may be slowed by exercise and possibly may delay the onset.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-athletes-way/201404/physical-activity-improves-cognitive-function

Aside from cognitive and memory benefits exercise is also shown to improve sleep patterns, moods and stress levels. It is exciting that it is the aerobic/walking kind rather than the resistance and muscle toning efforts that show the best outcomes. I think this makes it easier and cheaper to undertake, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/regular-exercise-changes-brain-improve-memory-thinking-skills-201404097110 It seems that you just need the heart to be pumping fast.

Besides going to an aerobics class (Step etc) also consider swimming, squash, tennis and – Dancing, not that I can dance but it sounds more exciting than running up and down stairs for 10 minutes. Even housework and gardening count. Just do something that creates a light sweat. http://brainblogger.com/2015/02/04/can-physical-exercise-improve-cognitive-abilities/

The link to Healthy Brains leads to a PDF article that is an easy read with many basic facts and tips. https://healthybrains.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/08000536/BrainHealthGuide.pdf

Very recently The Lancet has published articles relating to exercise and its benefits to both physical and mental health. https://www.thelancet.com/ Follow the link and search for articles of interest, I would suggest you prepare yourself with a coffee and a biscuit before pressing the ‘enter’ button.

Know yourself and your limitations and build your activity accordingly – just keep moving, its more beneficial than you think. 

Photo Acknowledgements:

Photo by Sylwia Bartyzel on Unsplash Featured Image

Photo by Lauren Kay on Unsplash Mom’s Taxi

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash Walking in Snow

Photo by Court Prather on Unsplash Golf

Photo by Stefano Pollio on Unsplash – Misted Hands

Photo by kevin laminto on Unsplash – End Photo

 

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