|Why get fit
Maintaining a 'keep fit' lifestyle doesn't have to mean slogging it
out in a sweaty gym. Just boosting your levels of general daily
activity will reap big rewards in improved health and energy.
There are all kinds of reasons why many of us find it hard to start
exercising - our day-to-day lives require a lot less physical activity
than in our grandparents' or even parents' day, most of us own cars
and rely on them to get around, and more and more people spend
hours sitting in front of computers at work.
The pressures of home and family life can also mean it feels as
if there's little time left to fit in exercise. It's certainly tough to get started.
So, it's worth thinking about what you gain from regular exercise
and making even a partial improvement to your fitness.
Physical inactivity is an independent risk factor for coronary
heart disease - in other words, if you don't exercise you
dramatically increase your risk of dying from a heart attack.
Conversely, exercise means a healthier heart because it reduces
several cardiovascular risks, including high blood pressure.
Being physically active can bolster good mental health and help you
to manage stress, anxiety and even depression
Regular exercise can help you achieve and maintain an ideal weight,
which can be important in managing many health conditions,
or may just make you feel happier about your appearance.
All exercise helps strengthen bones and muscles to some degree,
but weight-bearing exercise, such as running, is especially good
in promoting bone density and protecting against osteoporosis,
which affects men as well as
Different exercises help with all sorts of health niggles, such as
digestion, poor posture and sleeplessness, and physical activity
can be beneficial for a range of medical conditions, from diabetes
to lower back pain
Don't be a statistic
There are lots of positive reasons for getting fitter, including
meeting new people, discovering new interests and generally
feeling better, but if you need to be scared into doing more
exercise, consider the following:
On current trends a third of men will be obese by 2010,
according to a 2006 Department of Health report
Between 2003 and 2006, obesity in adults rose by nearly 40 per cent
The picture is just as worrying for youngsters - by 2010, it's predicted
22 per cent of girls and 19 per cent of boys between the ages of two
and 15 will be obese, with girls under 11 at particular risk
Obesity is responsible for 9,000 premature deaths a year in this
country, and is a major contributory factor to heart disease
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is still the leading cause of death in the
UK, accounting for about a fifth of all deaths, according to the
Office for National Statistics
About a third of deaths caused by CHD are among people aged under 75
Almost half of adults in the UK will be aged over 50 by 2020.
We tend to assume the benefits and pleasures of sport, exercise
and fitness are only for younger people, but think again.
The rewards of improved fitness later in life can be great –
both for your health and social life.
Statistics show activity levels decline steadily with age, and
by their mid-50s few people take regular exercise.
But regular activity is especially important as you age because
it has beneficial effects on conditions such as diabetes and
cardiovascular disease, and helps you maintain mobility and
mental well-being and, consequently, your independence.
There's no reason you should give up the sport you love just
because you're getting older. There are plenty of exceptions
to the statistical trend of decreased activity as we get older
at clubs up and down the country, for example, there are runners
in their 50s, 60s and beyond whose fitness puts people 20 or 30
years their junior to shame.
And even if you weren't especially active or sporty at a younger age,
it's never too late to start. Male or female, single or with a partner,
there's lots you can do, and enjoy.
Some of the health benefits you'll get are the same as younger people,
there are things that are of particular benefit as you get older:
More energy - exercise makes you feel more energetic, while sitting
around not doing much makes you feel sluggish and unable to do anything
Improved sleep - your body and mind feel as though they've done
something and are ready for rest at night
Stable weight - regular exercise helps to keep you at a healthy weight
Improved circulation and lower blood pressure
Delayed ageing - keeping active strengthens your muscles, joints and
bones as well as helping with mobility and balance, important as it
helps to prevent falls, which are the leading cause of injury and death
for the over-75s
On top of the health benefits, exercise can be an excellent way to meet
new people, whether it's at a gym, a rambling or running club,
or just people you meet while walking the dog.