Why you’re never too old to exercise

The over-65 age group is the most sedentary amongst us, but as Erin Phillips discovers exercise doesn’t have to be difficult… and it can lead to a happier, healthier, and longer life.

With research showing nine out of 10 Australians over the age of 50 don’t exercise enough to keep fit, it seems for many of us that’s a distinct possibility.

It’s something sports superstar and AFL player Erin Phillips turns her mind too, even now as a supremely fit and healthy 32-year-old.

“It’s the ultimate irony,” she says, “when we’re young and it comes easily we tend not to bother with exercise, but when we’re older and it becomes more important, exercise can be really hard going.

“As an elite footballer and in my thirties, it’s fair to say I’m at the peak of my fitness and I certainly spend a lot of time in the gym, but as we get older it’s not so much about adding years to our life, but life to our years!”

Scientists have found our bodies react to exercise, no matter what age we are and that people over 65 in particular need adequate fitness levels to help them maintain their independence and to protect against illness and chronic disease.

With Australians enjoying one of the highest life expectancies in the world, Osteopath Dr Shane Buntman says lack of physical activity as we age can lead to a reduction in muscle mass, strength and physical endurance as well as problems with coordination and balance, joint flexibility and mobility.

“It can also mean an increase in body fat and blood pressure as well as increased susceptibility to mood disorders like anxiety and depression,” he says.

“Looking at all of the research it seems adapting your body to exercise can be the key to ageing gracefully and there are certainly a multitude of different ways to get active,” adds Erin.

After walking and swimming, cycling is now the third most popular sport for over 55’s in Australia due to its low impact on joints and bones, with activities like bushwalking, bowling and golf also popular.

“No matter what age we are, we have to make exercise a part of our every day and remember you’re only as old as you feel,” Erin says.

Australian Department of Health guidelines suggest people aged 65 years or older should take part in at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical exercise on most, preferably all, days with even this having a significant impact in health and wellbeing.

Catch up on the full episode of The House of Wellness TV show to see more from Jo, Ed, and the team.

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