By Debra Waters
How to get fit and reduce your fitness age with some simple lifestyle changes.
Want to improve your body and brain? This is how to get fit. You don’t have to push yourself hard – just 10 minutes a day reap positive benefits. “The Government recommends adults and older adults build up to 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week (or 75 minutes vigorous intensity) for maximum health benefits,” says Dr Anna Lowe, physical activity clinical champion for Public Health England.“Even if you aren’t currently very active any small increase in activity levels really helps.”
The good news is that before lockdown, Sport England– whose mission is to get everyone to take part in sport and physical activity regardless of age, background or ability level – conducted its Active Lives Adult Survey. The results showed rising activity levels, with 63% of adults doing at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a week.
Benefits of exercise
What activity does is reduce inflammation. This isn't conjecture – studies have proved that ageing and chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, arthritis and dementia are all linked the body's inflammatory response. Incorporating daily activities that get you nearlyout of breath but allow you to talk increase your heart rate. These include brisk walks, gardening and housework.
“As well as upping activity levels, you need to avoid too much sitting,” says Stuart Biddle, professor of physical activity and health at the University of Southern Queensland, Australia. “Our research found that lying down, watching TV and sitting at the computer increased metabolic syndrome – a cluster of high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high cholesterol– by 73%.”
“Exercise keeps our metabolism working well, so the energy we take in from food fuels our movement rather than being stored as fat,” explains says fitness trainer Julia Buckley. “It also helps regulate insulin levels, lowers blood pressure and keeps us mobile. Together, this is a powerful package for keeping metabolic disorders like stroke, diabetes and heart disease at bay."
Your fitness age
One reliable measure of your body's age is not how old you are, but your fitness level.“Sports scientists look at how our fitness levels, or 'fitness age', affect our longevity and health,” says Julia. “Fitter people tend to live longer and suffer fewer ailments associated with ageing. So, a fitter person could be considered ‘younger’ than someone less fit of the same age. We can change our fitness age simply by improving our fitness.”
WorldFitnessLevel.org backs this theory. It states that 'your body's capacity to transport and use oxygen during exercise is the most precise measure of overall cardiovascular fitness'. Discover your fitness age with itsonline fitness age calculator. Use the result as a guide to reduce your fitness age, become fitter, and improve your life.
How to get fit and stay fit
Choose exercises that work for you, and have attainable goals. So, opt for something you enjoy; for example, if you like to socialise pick dance classes or group activities. If you’re easily bored try something new such as fencing or open water swimming, and if you’re goal-oriented set a target that’s challenging but achievable, such as aCouch to 5K run.
Write down weekly activities that you'll benefit from, from weeding to a yoga class. And never think you’re too old! There are many effective exercises for seniors to improve quality of life (consult a doctorfirst if you have health issues).
See our gallery to learn how to incorporate these fitness tips into your life:
- Easy lifestyle changes
- Use technology
- Buddy up
- Work smart
- 10 minute brisk walk
- Build a home gym
- 12 minute gentle jog
- 10 minute fast run
- Open water swimming
- 20 minute bike ride
- 4x4 interval training
- 60 minute dance class
How to get fit: make easy lifestyle changes
How often: Every day Suitable for all ages? Yes How you’ll benefit: These small wins don't cost anything but bring results. Start small: A brisk daily walk will make you feel brighter and more energetic. Move daily: It doesn’t have to be much or for long but get used to activities that increase your heart rate. Try taking the stairs, getting off the bus earlier, or walking with a friend rather than sitting in a coffee shop. Be active first thing: Studies suggest morning workouts of more than 20 minutes burn most fat.
How to get fit: use technology
How often: As often as possible Suitable for all ages? Yes How you’ll benefit: Technology reminds you to exercise and keeps track of your progress. You’ll also feel a sense of achievement so you’re less likely to give up. Buy a pedometer or download one onto your phone. Alternatively, use apps such as British Military Fitness, which offers workout plans; 5 Minute Yoga to encourage stretches on waking or before bed; or Better Points, that rewards points you convert into shopping vouchers.
How to get fit: buddy up
How often: Twice a week Suitable for all ages? Yes How you’ll benefit: Getting active with a friend helps to motivate and prevent loneliness. Go to a class together or share a personal trainer. If the latter sounds pricey cut the cost by hiring a fitness or sports science student from your local college. Booking sessions in bulk can save money too.
How to get fit: work smart
How often: The days you work Suitable for all ages? Yes How you’ll benefit: Sitting down at a desk all day limits the amount of calories your body burns. Get up every 20 minutes and walk around, especially at lunchtime. If you have meetings on another floor take the stairs, and instead of emailing your colleague walk over to their desk and have a conversation – you'll feel more alert and active. Fidgeting in your chair will help too; research shows that fidgeters burn up to 10 times more calories than those who stay still. If you have an iPhone, download the 1 Minute Desk Workout app.
How to get fit: 10 minute brisk walk
How often: Daily Suitable for all ages? Yes How you’ll benefit: Not only does regular brisk walking improve cardiovascular health, a study from the Group Health Research Institute found that people who exercise moderately three times a week for 15 minutes were 38% less likely to develop dementia. The NHS Active 10 app offers support on how to incorporate a daily walk.
How to get fit: build a home gym
How often: as often as you can Suitable for all ages? Yes (speak to your doctor first if you have any pre-existing health conditions) How you’ll benefit: If making time for the gym is off-putting there's no excuse if you bring the gym to you! This can make it easier to exercise – it also benefits people who feel shy or embarrassed about working out in public. Use tins of beans as hand weights, a sturdy chair for bench presses, and the stairs as a makeshift step machine. If you've got space, pick up a second-hand exercise bike or running machine from Freecycle or Gumtree.
How to get fit: stretches
How often: Five days a week Suitable for all ages? Yes How you’ll benefit: Stretching releases upper body tension – this is especially relevant if you spend hours hunched over a computer. According to a study, office workers reported 37% less pain in their upper body after just two minutes of stretching with a resistance band. The NHS website has recommendations for easy stretches or take a yoga or Pilates class. To up the ante, try more challenging workouts like ones on the Let’s Bands app.
How to get fit: 12 minute jog
How often: Five times a week Suitable for all ages? Yes (speak to your doctor first if you have any pre-existing health conditions) How you’ll benefit: As well as improving circulation and metabolism, moderate cardio could reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by up to 27%. Start with a gentle jog and don’t worry if you need to alternate walking with jogging until you build up stamina.
How to get fit: 10 minute fast run
How often: Once a day Suitable for all ages? Yes (speak to your doctor first if you have any pre-existing health conditions) How you’ll benefit: This is one to work up to, but the appeal is that you don't need to run for 30 minutes. Just 10 minutes of high-intensity running is enough to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity, reduce stress levels, blitz fat cells and preserve lean muscle mass, which keeps your metabolism healthy and your body toned.
How to get fit: open water swimming
How often: twice a week Suitable for all ages? Yes (speak to your doctor first if you have any pre-existing health conditions) How you’ll benefit: Not everyone is lucky enough to have a lido, river, lake or the sea nearby, but many cities and towns have an outdoor pool. Outdoor swimming isn't as scary as it seems – your body soon adapts to the cold and it burns more calories when it's chilly. What’s more, cold water swimming can ease stiff joints and conditions such as fibromyalgia and arthritis. And it's a great way to recharge your batteries. Join a club for safety and guidance. Visit Wild Swim for info.
How to get fit: 20 minute bike ride
How often: Once a week Suitable for all ages? Yes (speak to your doctor first if you have any pre-existing health conditions) How you’ll benefit: Dust off your bike, don your helmet and cycle around the park. When you feel confident, look for scenic routes to explore. Why? It may help you have better sex! In fact, most exercise improves sex as it increases blood flow and energy levels, and boosts body confidence and self-esteem. Research from the University of Texas found women who spent 20 minutes on a treadmill or stationary bike increased blood flow to their pelvic area by 50%. The result? Stronger orgasms.
How to get fit: 4x4 interval training
How often: twice a week Suitable for all ages? Yes (speak to your doctor first if you have any pre-existing health conditions) How you’ll benefit: This twice-weekly 4x4 interval training programme is time-efficient, improves aerobic fitness and is suitable for everyone regardless of age or fitness levels. It involves a 10 minute jog to work up a sweat, then a fast 2 minute run to increase the heart rate (enough to bring on heavy breathing). This is followed by a 3 minute brisk walk. Repeat steps 2 and 3 three more times. End with a 5 minute jog. You can also try this method with swimming and cycling.
How to get fit: 60 minute dance class
How often: Once a week Suitable for all ages? Yes, though speak to your doctor first if you have any serious pre-existing health conditions How you’ll benefit: Dancing works on smaller muscles and pulls them in, which creates a longer-looking, lean and toned shape (rather than running, which predominately works the big leg muscles). It leaves you toned all over, offers a great cardio workout and can correct bad posture. If you want to tone your legs and bottom try foxtrot, waltz, tango and rumba as they involve a lot of lunging, leaving legs slimmer and more toned. Faster dance classes such as Charleston and quickstep are best for the heart and fat burning. For a flat stomach try Zumba and Salsa classes, which work the core muscles that hold in your mid section. For toned arms, pretty much all types of dance do the trick but the ultimate arm-toning dance is the Spanish paso doble.
Best bubble bath, oils and salts for spa-like bathing in your home
Soak away the day with the best bubble baths and most indulgent bathing potions around
By Fiona McKim •
30 of the best winter coats for women to see you through cold spells in style
Our round-up of the best winter coats has got all styles covered, from timeless trench coats to cozy puffers
By Jess Beech •