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Spring into fitness

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Age should be no barrier to being active. Whatever your age or level of fitness, our tips can help you step up and feel better

It’s a fact of life that as a country, we’re getting bigger – in many of the wrong ways. Official figures show that almost two in three adults are either overweight or obese, and these numbers have been rising sharply for the past couple of decades. 

Our hectic, modern lifestyles are to blame. Many of us work sedentary office-based jobs where the most physical exertion we’re likely to experience all day is the click of a mouse or keyboard. Parenthood, long hours and the allure of a glass of something and a treat at the end of the day make it all too easy to put on weight. 

The important thing is to start 

Gillian Reeves from Virgin Active says people getting into exercise after a break should start gently and build up over time If you have been active throughout your life or the latter part of your 30s, you should continue to keep up your exercise regime and not lower the intensity just because you are getting older. But whatever your age or level of fitness, there are steps you can take to get back in charge of your health. The important thing is to start. 

Gillian Reeves, an exercise expert with Virgin Active (pictured), says: “If you are starting an exercise routine in your 40s, begin at a moderate intensity and build up to higher intensities once a base level of fitness has been achieved.” 

For example, this could be completing 20 minutes of cardio such as power walking, jogging, cycling or swimming at an intensity where you feel you can maintain the activity for 20 minutes. 

After 6 to 8 weeks, as you feel fitter and the exercise that you started becomes easier, start to increase the intensity. Be sure to add weight-bearing exercise to your routine as well as cardio – this could be free weights, resistance bands, or simply your own body weight – to maintain and build your bone density. 

Gillian says: “When starting an exercise programme later in life, it can be tricky to start a new habit. Exercising with your friends or meeting people at your local health club can help to keep you motivated.” 

Many people find the structure and routine of regular sessions like Body Pump, Zumba or Group Cycle are good at keeping them motivated. 

Battling the ‘middle-age spread’ 

In your 50s, health issues that may have been building over the years may come to the surface. Type II Diabetes affects around 3.5 million people and is strongly linked to inactive lifestyles with a poor diet. 

If you have health issues at any age, it’s a good idea to consult a doctor before starting an exercise programme to get a ‘green light’ to go ahead and highlight what you should or shouldn’t do. 

“There are a lot of very fit 50-somethings out there who run marathons for example and exercise regularly, so the key is to know where you are at specifically and maintain or build on your individual fitness level,” adds Gillian.  

Hormonal changes mean people gain weight and store fat more easily in their 50s – the ‘middle-age spread’ isn’t entirely a myth. Leading an active lifestyle with a healthy diet is important to keep you in shape. 

Keep active throughout your week and make a conscious effort to get up from your desk at work and take a walk, you’ll also look after your back this way, too. “A lifetime of sitting can have an effect on your posture; shoulders can inwardly rotate and hips and lower back can become less mobile,” says Gillian. 

Classes and exercise methods such as Pilates and Yoga are great ways to improve posture, overall mobility, flexibility and core strength and keep you healthy.

Real life: “Happiness for me is still playing table tennis around the world” 

Roy Norton retired at 56 and travels the world playing in various veterans’ table tennis competitions

Roy Norton (pictured) is one of the UK’s top table tennis players. He’s also in his 70s. “Other people say I’m a pensioner, but that doesn’t ring a bell with me,” he says. “I still play table tennis twice a week in the first division of the Walsall and Wolverhampton leagues, I play every weekend and I travel abroad a lot.” 

Roy retired at 56 and has spent much of the time since travelling the world, playing in various veterans’ table tennis competitions. 

“Since turning 66, I have won a bronze medal in the World Veteran Table Tennis Championships, two silver and two bronze medals in the European Veteran Table Tennis Championships,” he says. 

“I have played for the UK deaf team at the age of 70 when my team mates were 19 years old. I have won over 400 medals or trophies in 23 different countries, taken 400 flights and I helped to make a film ‘Ping Pong’, which was shown in cinemas and on Film 4, which I also appeared in.

“Happiness for me is still playing table tennis around the world and even appearing on television representing retired people.”

What are your keep-fit tips? Let us know below, have your say in the Forum, or head back to ‘Staying healthy in retirement 

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This article has been commissioned by retiresavvy and any opinions voiced are the author's own.


Whenever I think I might be getting to old for an active life I must remind myself of the example that Roy is setting ! Excellent!

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