With people living longer than ever nowadays, the idea of staying fit in your nineties is not as crazy as you might think. Ayesha Muttucumaru asks the experts for their advice on exceeding fitness expectations
The idea of any form of exercise in your nineties can seem a daunting, and quite frankly terrifying, task. However, what this series has shown us most of all is that no matter how old you are, staying fit can make a real difference to your physical and mental wellbeing.
With life expectancy on the rise, staying active as we get older has never been so relevant (in fact, the oldest person in the world passed away last month at the ripe old age of 115). Exercise can take so many different forms and needn’t just be restricted to a spin class, rugby match or a marathon (although if you can still do these types of activities at this age, you are officially our fitness hero).
Try to simply incorporate some form of exercise into your daily routine for a sharper mind and more able body, so you can celebrate reaching this landmark age in style.
Ageing can result in weaker bones and impaired mobility due to illnesses, operations and general wear and tear throughout your lifetime. It is therefore imperative that anyone planning on embarking on a new exercise regime at this age does so under the guidance of their GP and seeks the advice of trained fitness professionals in order to learn proper form and reduce the risk of injury.
Personal Trainer Jak Jackson recommends a full debrief first. “Make sure that any conditions are known and that you fill out a Par-Q (i.e. a Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire) before any exercise, just so the instructor knows what they’re dealing with.”
Whether you’re ninety and looking to stay active or a family member wanting to help your parent or grandparent get more mobile, Stephen Price , fitness expert and Founder of SP&Co , has provided the below advice for getting started.
Strength programmes: “Strength programmes are still very important in very elderly clients. It’s interesting to note that you would think that the older you get the more you would be lowering the intensity but it has been proven that if you can, all things considered, keep things at a bit of a higher intensity, it is still relevant and has been shown to make gains even at this age.”
Mobility exercises and light dynamic stretching: “Mobility exercises and light dynamic stretching (leg swings/ankle and shoulder rotations/hip etc.) are great to help movement - hip tightness has been attributed to increases in falls in elderly clients so it’s really beneficial to work this area.”
How do I measure my success? “Positive results have to be relative to the client’s needs, and in this case the ability to rise from a chair or bed, and balance and stability when walking are all markers, which if improved make a huge difference to a client’s life - so a programme can be designed with these things in mind.”
Stick to an exercise regime: “The older you get, the faster the positive results are lost - so I'm afraid to say it’s even more important to maintain consistency if possible when it comes to physical activity, than if you were say 50 years younger.”
Exercises to avoid: “Long/extended static stretching, long yoga poses and the like in elderly clients would be avoided as they increase the likelihood of injury, especially when joint stability is weak.”
Struggling to know where to start? Jak Jackson recommends the following move. “Try a step back into an overhead press, (raising arms as you step one leg back, and then the other) obviously with no weights and minimal knee flexion. This exercise will work on your mobility, coordination and will work up a good sweat! If performing a multi-joint or single joint exercise, only do so to your capacity and/or range of motion.”
James Osborn , Head of Personal Training at Freedom2Train , recommends trying low impact cardiovascular work such as swimming, light jogging, and cycling on an indoor bike which will help strengthen your heart and lungs and burn calories while not taking too much of a toll on sore or arthritic joints.
Stay active no matter what
Whether it’s gardening, carrying bags from the weekly food shop or walking the dog, getting outside in the fresh air and staying active will go a long way in helping you keep fit and in shape.
Make a conscious effort to go outside with friends or family members for at least 30 minutes every day, by putting it in the diary and sticking to it. This minor tweak to your daily routine will make a world of difference, helping you to stay more alert, boosting your levels of vitamin D and increasing your overall confidence and sense of independence too.