Between creaking joints and aching muscles, it’s not always easy to maintain your physical wellbeing.
But taking care of your body is essential for a good quality of life as you age. Regular exercise and training are crucial to support your overall health.
The benefits of exercise can be felt at any age, says Zilké Kolenić, a biokineticist at Constantiaberg Human Performance Centre. “If you make exercise part of your routine, you have a better quality of sleep, increased strength, and can comfortably complete your daily activities,” she explains. “These benefits are also long term, e.g., better-controlled blood sugar levels, a healthier heart, and stronger joints”.
If you, or a loved one is approaching, or in their later years, it’s encouraging to know that a recent study at the University of Maryland showed exercise boosts brain function in people who already have moderate cognitive decline (MCI).
When adults with MCI participated in a 12-week exercise training programme, researchers observed two positive effects: improved brain function and a decrease in blood flow to certain brain regions. This might seem contradictory at first, but the interesting finding was that the reduced blood flow coincided with significant improvements in cognitive test scores.
In other words, exercise also helps to keep your mind sharp.
How to start out at the gym
Going to a gym can be intimidating, especially if you haven’t been active for some years. Even younger people get it wrong, says Kolenić. “A big mistake people make is substituting good and safe form for heavier weights and more repetitions,” she says. “Quality is always more important than quantity. Using heavy weights without proper technique is not as effective for building muscle and strengthening, and you’re more susceptible to injuries. Biokineticists see many patients with injuries sustained in the gym because of improper technique and uncontrolled movement.”
Her advice? Just get going and start moving. “Start off slowly and don’t expect to be where you were before you became inactive. Be patient and get help and advice if you don’t know where to begin.”
Whether you’re doing cardio, strength training, or flexibility exercises, ask a personal trainer to help you at the gym, or make an appointment with a biokineticist for an assessment. They’ll assist by drawing up an appropriate and safe exercise programme to suit your goals and ability. That way, you can safely begin or resume your health and fitness journey regardless of your age or physical condition.