You hear it all the time – outside the school gates, in the supermarket, at the pub: “I know I’m terribly unfit, but it’s too late to do anything about it now”. Maybe not those words exactly, but something similar. People recognise that there’s something wrong, and they should be fitter, but there’s just no way they can do anything about it. Ask them why and they’ll say they’re too old, too overweight, too busy, too poor…

…we all have an excuse.

Too old not to exercise

Truth is, these are exactly the people who should be thinking about how fitness can become a part of their lives. Studies have shown that that after the age of 40, people typically lose 8 percent or more of their muscle mass every 10 years – but just because it’s typical that doesn’t mean it has to happen. Those studies have also shown that people who continue to exercise as they get older can drastically reduce their physical decline.

It really is a case of use it or lose it.

The excuses

  • I’m too old to be a gym-bunny – well yes, it’s easier for a young slim person in their twenties to pound away on the treadmill than someone who hasn’t exercised for a few decades. But the rewards can be much greater for you than for the already fit young person. Your exercise programme can build and maintain bone strength to combat the onset of osteoporosis, help to reduce your weight and increase muscle tone and strength. All of this will help to improve not only your physical well-being, but your mental faculties too
  • My joints aren’t what they used to be – possibly, but while it might not be the first thing on your mind when you’re suffering arthritis pain, a well chosen exercise programme can reduce your symptoms, improve your mobility and help you feel better both physically and mentally. Gym machines can focus on particular muscle groups, and your fitness instructor or personal trainer can help to pick the right exercises for your condition
  • I’ve put on some weight since I had my children – a lot of people do, but regular exercise is an important part of getting your weight under control, in combination with diet and other lifestyle considerations. The sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll be slimmer, stronger and more healthy. You can work with a fitness instructor or personal trainer to find the best way for you to start along the road to improved fitness
  • I don’t have time to get fit – so many people are so busy in today’s world, but getting fit doesn’t have to take a lot of time. It’s more about getting into the right habits and fitting in with your lifestyle. It’s better to have a routine that will work for you than to avoid doing anything because you can’t find the time
  • I was never any good at sports – we’re not talking about winning the Olympics. It’s much more important than that. It’s not about competition at all (unless you want it to be). If you don’t look after your body you’re not only reducing your own quality of life, but that of those around you too. You don’t have to target the London Marathon (but you could) – a brisk walk with the dog, or playing with the children or grand-children will be good for all of you, and fun too
  • I can’t afford to pay for the gym or a personal trainer – it’s not essential to subscribe to a gym and enjoy the attentions of that gorgeous well-toned personal trainer (nice though it sounds). If you have the resources, then it might help, but if you don’t then with a bit of ingenuity and determination you can even save money – walk or cycle rather than taking the tube, bus or car. Cut down on visits to the coffee shop and unhealthy snacks, and it could pay for your gym membership. Take the stairs rather than the elevator. Go for a lunchtime walk rather than a lunchtime drink. Do something rather than nothing. You’ll feel better and be more productive
  • I’ll get bored after a week or two – that’s why you need to come up with a routine that works for you. Many people find that joining a gym, working with the trainers and going to classes helps with their motivation, but others prefer to jog the streets alone. There is no right answer for everyone – the best plan is to do what works for you

How do I start?

If you haven’t exercised in years, then the answer is – gently. If you have health problems then you should obviously talk to your GP. After that, if you’re in the right frame of mind, the benefits start right now.

If you like the idea of joining a gym (and if you’re lucky your employer might even subsidise your membership) then it’s a great way to get going and stay motivated. A gym instructor or personal trainer can give you an exercise programme and help with more holistic lifestyle changes such as diet. Joining classes, whether high-energy Zumba and spin or the more serene yoga will give you the support of fellow class members and help to make the fitness routine a part of your life.

You might like to go along to your local Parkrun, which takes place every Saturday at locations all around the country – despite the name, it’s perfectly acceptable to walk round the park, and enjoy the social interaction and open-air.

Further reading