A recent BBC Horizon documentary investigated scientific evidence that it is possible to get fit by exercising for just 20 seconds three times a week. Barry Kennedy looks at ways to improve your fitness and mobility as you age.
Sounds incredible doesn’t it? But there is evidence to suggest that it works. However, as with most scientific studies, there are a few caveats. Firstly, it doesn’t work for everyone. And secondly, the 20-second burst has to be very high intensity and preceded by a warm up and warm down. So all in all, it’s not quite as simple as it sounds.
Equal and Opposite Reaction
As with all studies, there is evidence (and a lot of it) that contradicts this 20-second workout theory. Most personal trainers and fitness experts would argue that it takes longer to get into shape. They would seem to be in the know, to be fair.
Conditioning the body and keeping fit at any age is about regularity. The aim is to train the body that a state of exertion is natural. That’s what being fit is all about. Of course, there are different levels depending on your age and ability. When you get into your fifties and beyond it’s unlikely (though not impossible) that you’re going to be doing any Ironman Triathlons (look it up if you haven’t heard about them). But there is still plenty you can do to keep fit and healthy.
Less Impact, More Impact
Basically it’s about raising heart rate and then recovery. Later in life, running and weight training are going to put a strain on joints and bones that can cause injury. You can still do it but moderation is the key. Only run once or twice a week, the same for weight training.
Swimming and cycling, however, are great ways of minimising impact and maximising fitness. Swimming especially works the whole body, including all the major muscle groups, without causing pain to joints. Different strokes will work out different parts of the body. The other great thing about swimming is that you can work at different intensity. A half hour or hour swim will improve endurance and burn plenty of calories. Swimming in shorter, high intensity bursts with recovery time is great for cardio-vascular fitness.
It doesn’t matter what you do really. In fact, the more varied the better. Whether it’s swimming, cycling, tennis, Pilates, yoga or waterskiing, as long as you’re up and about for an hour at least three times a week then your fitness will be improving. Join a local gym and they will be able to work out a fitness programme for you, including swimming, gym use and exercise classes.
While there have been many studies suggesting that exercising can help cut the risk of developing dementia by as much as 50 per cent, the truth is that the exercise needs to be quite strenuous to achieve results and it should get the heart pounding.
But not everyone has the physical fitness or the mobility in old age to go on 10 mile runs; many more seniors are in need of a staircase assessment.
But there is one exercise that is not too demanding on the bones, but can aid in giving you a good work out too. That exercise is yoga.
Yoga has always been a very popular form of exercise, which is a combination of various positions or asana and breathing techniques all contributing to health. In fact, this form of exercise is meant for people of all ages. It’s not only for young people, as people of all ages can get themselves involved in this physical activity that is highly spiritual too. With the senior population growing rapidly, it is becoming as common to see yoga classes offering yoga for the over 50s, as it is to see stairlift rentals in the homes of many older people.
Today, people don’t do much physical activity and the work profile generally involves an extended period of sitting, leading to many problems. With growing problems like joint deterioration, loss of flexibility, diabetes, back ache and imbalanced body routines is doing yoga a great alternative.
Never Too Late to Start.
The important thing to remember is that it is never too late to start. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t run anywhere for years, your body is a lot tougher than you think and the benefits are incredible. Regular exercise is great for the body and will make you feel really great mentally too. It might take longer than 20 seconds but it will definitely be worth the effort.