By itself, ageing is not a cause of major health problems until you are in your mid-90s. And, even at this advanced age, strength, power and muscle mass can still be increased, says Julie Broderick, Assistant Professor in physiotherapy, Trinity College Dublin. Ageing is inevitable and influenced by many, many things – but if you keep active you can boost health and slow the ageing process, as Asst Prof. Broderick wrote in The Conversation recently.  The following are Julie Broderick’s top exercise tips for people of different fitness levels in their 60s and older.

For everyone: Social engagement maximises the benefits of exercise, so join a group physical activity. Add the outdoors and you’re boosting mental health, too. We should all avoid long bouts of sitting – so rethink any sedentary television habits! Keep moving, adding more exercise into your day whenever possible – however light or strong to suit your fitness level. Keep doing whatever you can and increasing it if possible because long-term, consistent exercise brings the most benefit. Learning a new way to exercise can be a brain boost, with especially martial arts, ballroom dancing  or other exercises requiring learning, coordinated movement and socialising in a group, all found to improve cognition.

For lifetime fitness fanatics: Long-term fitness usually means longevity with better health. If you’ve always stayed fit, you are likely to enjoy healthier metabolic, skeletal, cardiovascular and immune systems. Don’t stop what you’re doing – kettle bells, spin classes, rowing, triathlons or manual work such as gardening, and keep challenging yourself physically. Mix up your routine – a combination of aerobic and resistance work plus balance exercises is ideal.

Do watch for overloading or overusing body parts – which can happen if you stick to the same exercise. Better to mix up your exercise eg if you are a keen runner, add cycling or swimming to balance things out. Most importantly, be very aware that recovery after strenuous exercise is slower as you age and can take up to five days.

For the averagely fit: Keep up any exercise you enjoy and aim to steadily build up aerobic capacity so you can sweat a bit and feel slightly out of breath. You don’t have to join a gym, just keep building physical activity into your day eg by walking briskly even if you have plenty of time, keep up gardening and stay active around the house. If you need to go up stairs, why not do it twice? Stair climbing is a great exercise. Include strengthening, flexibility and balance exercises which are often forgotten. If you have hip or knee pain, try supported exercise in water or on a bicycle.

For the unfit or unwell: Chronic conditions make it more difficult to exercise and if you have several chronic conditions, you may need the doctor’s clearance for exercise or specialised exercise advice from a physiotherapist or other professional.

If you are experiencing three or more of the following: unplanned weight loss, exhaustion, slowness, weak grip as well as physical inactivity you may be considered ‘frail’,  and be vulnerable to even minor health stresses. But it is never too late to build more physical activity into your daily life.

Exercise might not be one of your habits but do start small because any activity is better than none. If you need to sit, try simple chair-based exercises or practise moving from sitting to standing for a start. Feeling a bit out of breath with exercise is normal and some initial aches and joint pain are fine. If you ever feel chest pain or severe discomfort, you need to see a doctor immediately.

If you are prescribed bedrest, get up and moving as soon it’s safely possible. Even a few days in bed can decrease strength and fitness. If you have surgery scheduled, being active before admission and moving as soon as possible afterwards will help your recovery. It may also prevent complications that could prolong your hospital stay. If you are diagnosed with cancer, keep active if you can – even during chemotherapy or radiotherapy and during recovery. If you have other common chronic conditions, such as heart or lung disease, the same applies: be as active as you can.

Whatever your health, Julie Broderick says  it’s never too late to benefit from being more physically active.

Sydney Community Services program of activities for exercise for seniors includes:

Strength and Balance sessions at Hunters Hill with the Older Women’s Wellness Group starts Feb 4, once weekly, and runs until April 7;  phone 9427 6425 ask for Mary at Hunters Hill SCS.

Movement Matters – The first 6-week program starts Monday, March 2, in Lane Cove. Taught by Sally Castell, a physiotherapist and fitness educator, the class is designed for older adults of all abilities and individual needs. Cost is $60 for six classes – phone 9427 6425 to book or for more information.

Also at Lane Cove, lively games of shuffleboard and table tennis are always on the schedule. Shuffleboard is 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month and table tennis groups play two sessions every Friday, between 12 noon-2pm and also  2pm-5pm.

Further information

Original article in The Conversation at

Five brain-boosting reasons to take up martial arts – at any age

A report by UK Active, which reimagines role of the physical activity sector in an ageing society, can be found here