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Over 50s health: Why keeping fit is important as you get older
Reaching the years beyond 50 is no reason to let your fitness slide. Maintaining your health as you age doesn’t have to be daunting — you might even have a bit (or a lot!) of fun.
Why should you keep fit as you get older
Regular sport helps to keep you socially active
When you begin to think about retirement, you might wonder about losing the regular social interaction you had through work. “Something doesn’t magically change about our need to interact with other human beings,” says Dr. Deepak Gaur, founder of Pop Up GP*.
Get into the routine of having a hit of tennis, a round of golf, or going to a gym class with a friend every week. You’ll be having too much fun to even notice you’re lifting your heart rate and burning energy.
TODD: I heard you’ve recently joined a tennis club, where did the motivation come from?
SHARON: Well I’m very much a tennis novice but being retired, I understand how important it is to keep fit is at my age. But if I’m to be totally honest, it’s the social side I love. I love having a chat and catching up after a hit on the court.
TODD: So there’s not that much tennis that actually gets played?
SHARON: Well that’s where you come in, how about a few pointers to get me out there?
TODD: So tennis aside, I sense that community is really important to this place?
SHARON: After losing my husband a couple of years ago I was feeling a little lonely, so when a friend recommended I join the club, I thought; why not?
TODD: I just love how tennis can bring people together like that.
SHARON:You can say that again!
Regular Sport Keeps You Physically Active
Regular exercise can generally help prevent long term injuries to the body. Activities like walking can increase your heart rate, which can generally mean a decreased risk of cardiovascular conditions and obesity, providing there are no other health conditions or risk factors which you have discussed with your health professional.
Osteoporosis can be common as we age. While medication can help fight symptoms, moderate-resistance activities like stairs, cross-trainers and even gardening can help build bone density, which can help prevent fractures and may reduce the rate of natural bone loss later in life. The Australian Government Department of Health^ recommends for people aged 65 years and over at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days.
Maintaining physically activity through regular exercise is a great way to take control of your health. You might also consider getting cover for your health if appropriate for your personal circumstances.
Apia Health Insurance provides cover for a range of services, including Hospital and Extras. It’s Health Insurance for over 50s only, so it’s designed with you in mind.
Regular sport creates routine
Regular exercise and sport can help create a new routine, when you start to think about retirement. Once milestones such as having a career, paying off the mortgage or raising a family have been met, you might look for a new sense of adventure. By joining sports groups or participating in regular exercise, you can develop new personal goals to aim for. Whether it be being able to have a kick of the footy without getting too puffed, or bench pressing a certain weight, goals can give us a sense of accomplishment and something to build towards, every day, week, and month.
Exercise benefits mental health
“Exercise is probably the best form of stress management, says Dr. Gaur.
“We know that people respond very well to exercise in terms of managing their day-to-day personal stress levels as well as their professional stress levels.”
TODD V/O: Steve’s a newcomer to tennis, and he’s just joined a social group who play on the weekends. Turns out he’s quite the natural.
TODD: So, how’d you get into tennis then?
STEVE: My wife dragged me along one day, I was a little reluctant at first but I loved it.
TODD: Is this the only way you managed to stay fit & healthy though?
STEVE: No, I’m a landscape gardener by trade, but at my age I just can’t do the heavy lifting I used to, so tennis is a great way to stay active, and I head down the courts most weekends.
TODD: It’s not just about the physical side, you get that nice social aspect
STEVE: Oh Totally. I’ve made some really good mates playing tennis, and my wife too. Everyone seems so positive
TODD: I can tell that the practice has actually been paying off
STEVE: Well, I’ll back myself, but I’m just not used to playing in front of all these cameras
Tips for maintaining your fitness in retirement
We spoke to sport and psychology performance expert and Associate Professor (Adjunct) at James Cook University, Dr. Jo Lukins**, and Dr. Gaur about their advice for keeping fit as you near retirement.
Dr. Lukins explains that having the self-control to choose the sometimes less appealing option is needed. “It’s about putting on the shoes and going for the walk rather than staying at home and sitting on the couch or choosing the healthier food option rather than the chocolates or the cakes or the sweets,” she says.
Form good habits
Dr. Lukins’ second tip for keeping fit is to form good habits. This is easier than relying on willpower alone (which even the best of us lack at times).
“Our willpower declines through the course of the day,” Lukins says. “We want to instead rely on our ability to form habits.”
“Find and identify the habits we have and reflect on whether they’re helpful. Then think about what new habits we want to implement into our lives, and how we’re going to do that.”
Have the right mindset
Try things differently, be open and brave with your mindset.
A fixed vs performative mindset could be the key to building your fitness in later years, according to Dr. Lukins.
“A fixed mindset is ‘oh I can’t do that because I’m older, whereas a performance mindset is ‘maybe I can’t do that yet. And maybe I can do learn to do it if I try.’”
“Maybe you used to be a runner and your knees won’t let you now, but you could take up walking or try an aqua aerobics class. Try things differently, be open and brave with your mindset.”
Pick things you like
Dr. Gaur suggests tailoring your exercise to what you like.
“If you say to a person who’s an occasional golfer or an occasional tennis player, let’s do a program that’s going to help your tennis game, their eyes light up,” Dr. Gaur says.
“Think about what you want to do and what you enjoy.”
After all, you’re more likely to stick to something if you enjoy it, as opposed to something you dread.
TODD V/O: Raymond’s nickname around his home club is the veteran. The way he moves around the court, you’d never guess his age.
TODD: Hey mate, I hear you’re hitting them really well.
RAYMOND: Well given the amount of time I spend out here I’d be a little worried if I wasn’t hitting them alright.
TODD: So has tennis always been a big part of your life?
RAYMOND: I played a decent standard in my schooling days, every weekend when I was still working & now almost three times a week in my retirement. ‘The Veteran’ nickname is certainly justified.
TODD: So in retirement, why’s tennis been so important to you?
RAYMOND: Well, being a former dentist, I tended to play regularly with other medical professionals. Some of these blokes I’ve been playing with for almost 30 years.
Tennis is a better way of staying connected than Facebook I reckon.
Change your exercise program regularly
"The body reacts to change," says Dr. Gaur. “A variety of aerobic or cardiovascular exercise and resistance exercise, and frequent changes in the program, are very important.”
“That also stimulates you intellectually because you’re doing something different.”
Dr Gaur also says getting adequate rest, managing injuries, having good nutrition and enough sleep, and monitoring your progress will help you achieve your fitness goals.
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Apia Health Insurance is issued by nib health funds limited ABN 83 000 124 381 (nib) a registered private health insurer and is arranged by Australian Pensioners Insurance Agency Pty Ltd (Apia) ABN 14 099 650 996 as an authorised agent of nib for which Apia receives a commission.
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