Free ways to achieve your 2024 fitness resolutions

It’s no secret that exercise is one of the keys to maintaining overall health and wellbeing – but we’re not doing enough of it. In fact, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates 87 per cent of adults aged 65 and over do an insufficient amount of physical and strength-building activity. The report also notes that physical inactivity can increase the risk of many diseases including type 2 diabetes, bowel cancer, dementia, coronary heart disease and strokes.

So how can we get motivated to move more? A great way to start is to set goals. A new year is the perfect time for new beginnings, so mark a start date on the calendar and come up with a plan to incorporate daily exercise into your routine. Thirty minutes per day of moderate intensity activity is the general recommendation, but you can start small – even a few minutes per day is beneficial.

Identify what’s holding you back from exercising

A great first step is to identify any barriers to reaching your goals. Physical limitations or risk of injury is a common concern for many older Australians, so be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider who may be able to suggest safe and appropriate options for you. Expense is another barrier, with many fitness classes costing upwards of $20 per session and therefore sitting firmly outside the budget. With that in mind, we’ve created a summary of free exercise options suited to many different fitness levels, so you can go ahead and make 2024 your strongest year yet.

Try community exercise classes

Ideally, your exercise routine should include both cardio (activities that increase your heart rate) such as aerobics or cycling, as well as activities that help build balance and strength, such as yoga and tai chi. Depending which state or territory you’re in, you may be able to access free group classes held in your local community center. These classes, which might include something like ‘Pilates for beginners’, are generally suitable for all fitness levels and delivered in a relaxed, fun atmosphere. There are also free hospital-based programs that incorporate Pilates, tai chi and yoga into ‘falls prevention’ programs. These generally require a referral – check with your GP to see what’s available in your area. It’s also worth visiting your local council for any free fitness classes it might offer – head to your local council’s website to see what options are available in your area.

Take online exercise tutorials

If you prefer the idea of exercising in your own home, online classes might be for you. Active & Healthy offer online tutorials for home-based exercises, including specific movements targeting balance and strength. Get Active Victoria is another great initiative, with online workouts including low-impact joint exercises and fun dance routines delivered via its website. Then there’s YouTube videos. Check out Bill Dooley’s channel for short, strength-building exercises you can do in less than four minutes. For longer step-by-step workouts, have a look at Sharon Kelly’s Super Ageing channel.

Join walking or running groups

Of course, one of the best free exercises is simply to walk: regular walking can strengthen muscles, lower the risk of heart disease, help prevent osteoporosis, improve your balance and much more. Finding a group to walk with can also be a great social activity and keep you motivated to do it regularly. You can search for already established walking groups Australia-wide through The Heart Foundation Community Walking Network, or start your own with a local friend or two.

To really get your blood pumping, you might also consider running. Parkrun is a global initiative that sees communities around Australia gather on Saturday mornings to do 5km circuits in their local parks. There’s no required time to complete the course or age limit, and you’re free to walk or jog if you prefer. The current age grade record is held by Norma Wallet, who joined the 100 Club (people who have run more than 100 Parkruns) at age 88 and recorded a time of 34:12 at 90 years of age. It just goes to show that age is no barrier to exercise if you can find an activity that moves you.

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