Dr Michael Mosley on the benefits of exercise
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Staying active as you get older can help keep many life-threatening health conditions, such as high blood pressure and dementia, at bay. However, many older people are put off the idea of exercising, not knowing where to start or worrying about aggravating joint pain. Express.co.uk is joined exclusively by Dean Hodgkin, a personal trainer who creates bespoke exercise plans for people middle-aged and older.
As you get older, if you get out of the habit of exercising regularly, you can begin to feel unfit and infirm.
However, finding a way to keep up an exercise routine – whether that involves going out on walks, playing a sport or hitting the gym – can make you feel younger, and even add years to your life.
Dean Hodgkin, 57, personal trainer and head of programming at leading community wellness and fitness app TRUCONNECT, says: “The ageing process is influenced by a number of factors but primarily lifestyle.
“Fortunately, this has been shown to be susceptible to manipulation and is capable of significantly impacting your life span.
“Not only is an active lifestyle recommended for good health whatever your age, there is growing evidence that the older you are the more important exercise is.”
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Dean refers to research suggesting in addition to the established health benefits of exercise, it could also turn back the clock on ageing, and even add years to your life.
Dean says: “Research shows HIIT training restarts the energy enzyme within the muscle cells, effectively reversing the effects of ageing.
“Additionally, a DNA study found exercise lengthens telomeres, an indicator of lifespan, adding, on average, an incredible 10 years.
“It’s true to say, therefore, exercise can not only put years on your life but will also put life in your years, even if you’re currently not active.”
This should certainly be enough to inspire you to get off the sofa and get moving, but even with the best of intentions, exercise can get harder as we get older, especially when you are dealing with health conditions like arthritis.
Dean says: “If you have any concerns regarding your health status, I strongly recommend consulting your GP before embarking upon a new exercise regime.
“However, there are some general principles that, if followed, will boost energy levels and enhance the ability to carry groceries, stand up from a chair without emitting a loud groan and having the stamina to take the family pooch on a walk around the park.”
Dean outlines the areas you should be aiming to improve with your exercise routine, no matter how gently you wish to take it at first, they are:
- Cardio fitness
- Muscular strength and endurance
- Motor skills
These are the principles Dean builds his “silver sessions” workouts aimed at older exercisers around – you can find Dean’s workouts exclusively at www.truconnect.fit.
For arthritis, a common misconception is exercise can aggravate joint pain, but in fact, the opposite is true.
Dean says: “Not only will it help to improve cardiovascular profile, increase muscular strength and improve flexibility but it can positively impact on mental health through additional social contact, enhanced self-esteem and reducing feelings of depression.
“Even better than this, there are studies to show exercise can help to relieve pain symptoms in nearly half of sufferers.”
Dean shares some of his favourite exercises for you to try at home, which are designed with joint-pain relief in mind.
- Place your feet hip-width apart and bend your knees so your thighs are as close to parallel to the floor as you can comfortably achieve. Dean says: “Holding this ski position will really task your thighs
- Your upper body will lean forwards slightly but ensure your abdominals are pulled in tight.
- Now add a further challenge by keeping your feet fixed but slowly shifting your hips as far as you can to the left and then to the right.
- Start with a target of holding for 30 seconds and aim to gradually build up to two minutes.
- Stand on your left leg with your right knee lifted up to waist height in front of you, hands resting on your hips.
- Step a long stride length in front and bend both knees to lower into a lunge, then use the leg muscles to power up and back to the start position.
- Now step the right foot a long stride to the right and lower down, bending both knees and ensuring they do not collapse into the centre. Again, contract strongly in the thighs and buttocks to raise up and return to the start position.
- Finally, step as far behind as you can reach your right foot and again lower down into a deep lunge by bending both knees. Lift up and return to the start position and repeat on the other leg.
- Try to keep the upper body still throughout all three phases of the exercise and stay upright, rather than leaning to assist the momentum.
- Start with four repetitions on each leg and aim to build up to 12
- Stand a stride away from a desk, chair or sturdy banister rail, with both hands on it.
- On a slant, aim for a straight line from your heels through your hips to the top of your head.
- Bend both arms and point your elbows out to the side to lower your chest as far as is comfortable.
- Now press through your palms to straighten your arms and return to the start position.
- Keep your elbows soft at the top rather than locking out your elbows.
- Start with a target of five repetitions and aim to build all the way up to 15
- Clasp your hands together in front of your chest.
- Keeping the elbows slightly bent, reach them as far forward as you can.
- Drop your head slightly and pull your tummy in as much as possible.
- Hold for 30 secs and repeat 2 more times.
Dean Hodgkin’s ‘Silver Sessions’ workouts for mid-lifers are available exclusively on the TRUCONNECT by TV.FIT app. To find out more, visit www.truconnect.fit.
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