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By Sheila Frampton

It’s really important to stay fit and healthy at any age – and who doesn’t want to have a healthy retirement? Regular exercise keeps you fit but it also increases your strength and flexibility, improves your mood and brings countless other health benefits.

As an exercise professional in my 60s, running classes for people of all ages and training instructors to teach, I hear people of my age and older commenting that ‘…it’s a bit too late to start now.’ Some people believe that they should be taking it easier as they get older – and according to the website hhs.gov, in the UK, only 28-34% of adults aged 65-74 are physically active.

Far from ‘sitting back and relaxing’ in our mature years, it is even more important to keep fit and it is never too late to start. I know people who have taken up sports like ice-skating and skiing in their retirement years. I started Powerhoop classes at the age of 50 and am now a Powerhoop instructor and national trainer.

So why should we exercise?

Exercise is good for all of us, regardless of our age. According to the World Health Organisation, a sedentary lifestyle is one of 10 leading causes of death or disability. Even gentle, regular exercise such as walking can increase lifespan by three to five years.

Exercise can:

  • Ease the symptoms of many conditions and prevent/delay the onset of disease. Studies show that people with arthritis, heart disease or diabetes benefit from regular exercise.
  • Reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack. Regular cardiovascular exercise, which raises your heart rate and increases the blood flow to your heart, helps keep cholesterol within a healthy range and boost overall health.
  • Increase strength and coordination which will help prevent falls. Research shows that weakness and poor balance are linked to inactivity rather than to age.
  • Improve bone density. Weight-bearing exercise such as walking, jogging or dancing can help increase bone strength and reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis which affects one in two women and one in five men.
  • Improve mental strength and the functioning of the brain. Research has shown that exercise and particularly dancing improves brain function, boosts memory and is linked to a reduced risk of dementia.
  • Improve flexibility – which makes it easier to perform daily physical activities and reduces the risk of injuries such as muscle strains, improves balance and decreases chronic pain.
  • Increase confidence and improve mood – if you lose weight, tone up and feel better, you’ll feel happier and more confident. Exercise also increases your level of endorphins which are natural mood lifters and it will get sleep patterns back to normal.

So how much exercise do we need?

People aged over 55 should do at least 150 minutes (2 1/2 ) hours of moderate-intensity exercise a week – or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity if you are already active – or a combination of both.

We should try to do something physically active every day – even just light activity like cleaning, vacuuming and dusting or going for a walk, even at a slow pace and then, twice a week do something that improves strength, balance and flexibility such as yoga, Pilates or gardening.

What is moderate aerobic activity?

  • Brisk walking
  • Water aerobics
  • Cycling
  • Dancing
  • Tennis
  • Hiking
  • Pushing a lawnmower

What is vigorous-intensity activity?

  • Jogging or running
  • Aerobics
  • Swimming fast
  • Riding a bike fast or uphill
  • Football
  • Energetic dancing
  • Hillwalking
  • Martial arts

What type of exercise should I choose?

As an exercise professional, I strongly believe that you should do something that you really enjoy. If you enjoy getting out and about, there’s nothing better than walking or cycling, sailing or rowing – or horse riding.

At the moment, walking and cycling are fine but as we are in lockdown, indoor exercise has to be done at home. Fortunately, there’s never been a greater range of classes online – some free and most are relatively inexpensive. There’s also a great selection of DVDs to try.


For those who enjoy dancing, online classes include Fitsteps and SOSA Dance Fitness as well as Zumba – and Zumba Gold, Bollywood or Belly dancing.

Visit Movegb.com and you will find hundreds of live-streamed classes including Ballet Barre Fit, Zumba, Bollywood, Bellyfit, Bachata and even African Dance Fitness. There’s also stretch and tone and yoga and Pilates classes – it’s possible to try most for just £1!


There’s a host of yoga classes out there but you need to choose carefully.  Some types of yoga involve faster flowing movements – personally I enjoy the gentler Hatha Yoga and Yin Yoga.

Two of the best websites I have found are yogainternational.com and yoganytime.com.

With yoga international, you’ll get the first 30 days free of charge and with yoga anytime the first 15 days are free. Both feature hundreds of classes with some of the world’s top Yoga teachers. You can choose your level from beginner to advanced and the type of yoga you prefer. You can also choose the length of class from 10 minutes to an hour – and there’ are meditation classes.

Other exercise classes

The NHS has 24 instructor-led, free exercise videos on nhs.uk – look at Fitness Studio exercise videos. There’s a wake up! workout and belly dancing for beginners as well as a range of workouts from 10 to 45 minutes in length with exercises to tone your abs, raise your heart rate and tone your upper arms. There’s even Pilates for back pain and Vinyasa Flow Yoga.

Davina does online classes on a website called ownyourgoalsdavina.com.  There are more than 100 classes, recipes and a support group.  There’s a monthly cost or a one-off subscription to pay.

Can I exercise with a DVD?

If you don’t want to join a class online, then DVDs are an excellent alternative. Happily, there’s a wide range of workouts available – and several for the over 50s. Some of the best include the following – and if you google them, you’ll find the best place to buy them and the best price.

  • SOSA Fitness – Dance Yourself Happy
  • Callenetics [Official DVD] 10 years younger in 10 hours
  • Fitsteps – which is great if you love ‘Strictly’ – all steps are devised by former Strictly dancer, Ian Waite
  • Davina: 5-week fit which is based on a series of 7-minute high-intensity workouts with easy to follow bonus moves
  • Barbara Currie – 7 Secrets of Yoga
  • Body Control – The Pilates Way with Lynne Robinson
  • Lorraine Kelly – Living to The Max (with Maxine Jones) – a series of 20-minute workouts
  • 10-minute Natural Bodylift with Danielle Collins

Things to remember:        

  • Wear appropriate clothing for exercise – loose tops and comfortable stretch trousers, leggings or tracksuit bottoms are fine – and trainers or similar.
  • Always do the warm-up and cooldown exercises – don’t be tempted to join the class late or cut it short – or skip a couple of sections if you are doing a DVD. The warm-up is designed to raise your pulse and prepare your body for exercise. The cooldown stretches out the muscles, restores your resting heart rate and helps improve flexibility.
  • Have water and a towel on hand (and a blanket for yoga) and make sure your exercise area is safe and free of anything that could cause you to slip or trip.
  • Check your floor surface. If you’re exercising on a hard kitchen floor, possibly with a concrete base, it may cause problems with knees, hips and ankles so keep everything low impact and wear suitable trainers.
  • Check if your exercise instructor is a fitness professional with appropriate qualifications. Exercise to Music Level 2 is the basic requirement for those who teach group exercise to music classes. A professional will understand that being older we have slightly different requirements although we do not want to be treated as ‘different.’ Many of us are fitter and stronger than our younger neighbours! It’s worth noting that any classes that only cater to over 50s must be taught by a Level 3 specialist instructor.
  • Fill out any health questionnaires correctly – don’t be tempted to skip any questions. Your instructor needs to know how to adapt moves to meet your needs.
  • Go easy on yourself until you build up your fitness levels. Take the lower options for movements – walk, don’t jog, make sure everything is low impact, don’t overstretch. In time, you will become stronger, fitter, more flexible but it doesn’t happen instantly.

How do I join an online class?

The instructor of your class will let you know how to join. Many live online classes are being offered on zoom.us which is free to join. There’s also Facebook live streaming which is another option. Whilst live online classes aren’t perfect, they get you moving and you do feel as if you’re with other people – and the instructor can see you through the video camera.


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