7 ways to keep fit and well in your 50's and beyond

By Lisa Salmon. Published 2020-08-14
BOLD-Wellbeing
Exercise and healthy living can make a big difference at any time of life including your 50s, 60's and beyond

No matter whether you are in your 50s, 60's, the person next door or a super fit ultra marathon runner like Helen Klein, who started running in her 50s and carried on well into her 80s, it’s a good idea to think about how you can help yourself stay as fit and well as possible. Especially as we are all living longer than ever.

Both medics and fitness experts like Diana Moran, ‘The Green Goddess’ of Eighties breakfast TV, agree that much of ageing well is down to looking after yourself, keeping active – even though it’s tempting not to as your joints get creakier – eating healthily and staying socially connected.

And if you need proof that making an effort brings results, look no further than Moran. At 81, the super-fit granny, who still does a daily fitness routine

“It’s so important to retain as much movement as possible, however limited your physical abilities are,” says Moran. “I know what a difference it makes. Life is so much richer if you’re physically fit. Chances are you’ll be mentally very fit as well.”

Tahir Masud, a professor of geriatric medicine and president of the British Geriatrics Society, points out that keeping up good levels of physical activity can reduce the risk of dementia and depression by up to 30%, type 2 diabetes by 40%, and cut the chances of getting certain cancers, such as breast and colon cancer, by 20-30%. Being physically active also means you’re 30% less likely to suffer falls. “All the evidence shows that if you’re motivated enough to do proper lifestyle measures, it can really make a difference,” he says.

Here, TheBoldAge, Moran and Masud outline seven the best ways for older people to keep fit and healthy…

1. Keep active

One of the most important things about looking after yourself as you get older is making sure you’re as active as possible, stresses Masud, who says older people should aim for 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical exercise per week, like walking, jogging or cycling, with a particular emphasis on maintainaing strength and balance. TheBoldAge would add that how much you do depends on the level of intesnity you are already at . For example given our own fitness regime we are aiming for 400-600 minutes, Helen Klein on the other hand would have been off the charts.

Moran in talking to Lisa Salmon said “I’m very, very aware of how exercise – moderate, I’m not talking about going to the gym and pumping iron and all that business – is important to maintain your good health,” she says.

2. Minimise sedentary time

Masud says people should at least try to get up a bit more frequently if possible, rather than being too sedentary for long periods. “You shouldn’t just sit in front of the TV without getting up regularly,” he says. “If you’re watching a programme for an hour, you should get up a few times, even if it’s to make a cup of tea.”

3. Avoid ‘bad’ things

It’s an obvious one, but just because smoking and drinking haven’t killed you yet doesn’t mean they won’t get you in the future. “Older people need to reduce smoking and excessive alcohol,” says Masud. “There’s lots of evidence that if you want to stay healthy as you get older, you’ve got to cut back on those particular things.”

4. Good nutrition

Masud says the NHS Eat Well Guide gives a good outline of what your diet should look like as you get older. “The important things are to cut back on carbohydrates and sugar, but what’s stressed is that an adequate amount of protein, for example eggs, meat, fish, and pulses, is really important,” he says. “If you don’t have enough protein, you’ve got an increased chance of becoming frail, which causes problems such as falls and other issues.”

In addition, everyone – at any age – needs to try to eat five portions of different fruit and vegetables a day, and plenty of fibre.

5. Stay connected

“Loneliness isn’t a good thing for your future health,” says Masud. “And as you get older, if you get socially isolated and lonely, it can increase the risk of heart disease, depression and dementia.”

Although the brain isn’t technically a muscle, it still needs ‘exercising’ like one. “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it,” explains Masud. “You start developing cognitive impairment and losing your memory.”

And lonely older people may have a higher risk of heart disease simply because having more reasons to socialise means you’re more likely to get out and about, which means keeping your body and brain more active. Getting out and about also reduces the risk of obesity, which can affect the heart too.

6. Get your jabs

Older people should have the flu vaccination every year, stresses Masud, plus any other important jabs, like those for shingles and pneumonia. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about what you might need.

7. Strengthen your bones

Doing some research TheBoldAge has found numerous studies which have shown that strength training, at any age increases bone density, strengthens joints and helps to reduce pain and can help guard against certain types of arthritis. As a consequence Boldies are able to increase the intensity of their exercise, creating a more virtuous circle. Studies also show that strength training improves the strength of tendons, improves mobility and helps to reduce the risk of balance issues arising and falls. So whether you are in your 50s, 60s, 70s, or older it is never ever too late to start.

The link to the NHS's Eat well guide can be found here