If you’re a fit fiftysomething, there’s no reason why you can’t continue doing any exercise you’ve already developed a passion for. But know your body, ‘If there’s any risk you could be developing osteoporosis (half of us do past this age, when loss of oestrogen makes our bones more vulnerable), be conscious that running can cause hairline fractures,’ says Leon. ‘It’s a good idea to talk to your GP before embarking on a new exercise programme and, if you’ve had your menopause and you have risk factors for osteoporosis, you should be entitled to a bone scan on the NHS, which will reassure you about what you can do. Even if running is unsuitable, it’s important to do some weight-bearing exercise to strengthen bones, so keep up your 10,000 steps a day.
‘You should also ask your doctor to check your blood pressure and cholesterol – if they’re raised and you don’t know it, sudden vigorous exercise could trigger a heart attack. But again it’s about balance – cardio exercise is also crucial for good circulation, and to prevent your risk of a stroke. It will also help regulate your blood sugar if you have diabetes. So make sure you’re walking fast enough to feel out of breath but able to hold a conversation.’
The best and most enjoyable exercises for your sixth decade include walking, swimming, cycling, weight lifting, dancing (ballroom or Irish), and simple stair climbing (to strengthen your knees).
Exercise can also help with problems such as lower-back pain, which are very common if you’ve spent most of your life sitting at a desk. ‘Listen to your body and use exercise to alleviate these issues – and make sure you don’t do anything that will exacerbate them,’ says Anne. ‘There are personal trainers who specialise in treating specific issues like back pain – so ask around. Postural classes that work the core muscles around your tummy (such as Pilates, involving gentle floor exercises that work the deepest muscles) will help your back, too, by giving your spine more support.’
‘If you’re starting to get arthritis, or you’re diagnosed with diabetes, these are big wake-up calls to do more exercise. It’s a myth that you can’t exercise with arthritis – you need to work your muscles to strengthen them and protect your joints. Walking, dancing, swimming, aqua aerobics and cycling suit a lot of people even with arthritis – but if you’re in too much pain to do these, it’s still important to exercise a bit (even from your chair). You can download a booklet on suitable exercises from http://www.arthritiscare.org.uk.’
Take a Method Putkisto class, which works on body alignment – this uses Pilates-style floor exercises, to improve your posture. It can keep you looking younger and will also help with balance, breathing, and overall energy. Find a class near you at http://www.methodputkisto.com.
Exercise now will enhance your quality of life and stave off ill health. Using a vibrational plate will increase muscle mass and bone density and improve your balance, preventing falls in later life.