From 1987 to 2003, there was a meteoric rise in older people going to the gym. The jump was measured at 343% more people aged 55 or over joining the gym. That number is still rising as people look to keep fit as they get older. After all, it does become a much tougher proposition and something all the more harder to keep on top of as we start to age. Yet still, 44% of adults over the age of 70 years enjoy a 20-minute walk less than once a year, or never.
So why is it more important for older people to go to the gym?
A whole range of reasons are medical. Men who burn 2,000 calories a week have a life expectancy two-and-a-half years longer than a bloke who doesn’t. Without exercise, aches and pains you’ve never experiences will be sure to creep in as your muscles and joints become less active. The gym will keep these moving and also keep them stronger. Exercising regularly will slow down the decline in function your body goes through as you get older.
Older people who exercise are less likely to be at risk of illnesses such as type two diabetes, depression, dementia and some forms of cancers. That’s if you aim for 150 minutes of exercise per week. As you get older your metabolism also slows down, which means chemical reactions happen slower in the body and in addition to that, the lower your muscle mass the slower your metabolism is likely to be. Therefore, it becomes much easier to put on weight as you get older and getting in the gym and eating the right things as a result won’t only make you lose or maintain your weight, but speed up your metabolism.
Exercising is also a great way to socialise. With the leap in number of elder gym goers over the years, you’re bound to meet someone a similar age as you with the same motivation for going to the gym, adding to your social life and you may even become gym partners to push each other that step further to become more active in later life.
Older people should aim for a slightly cardio-based workout to maintain and lose weight, but don’t underestimate the value of strength exercises. A study on 90-year-old women in a nursing home found that a 12-week strength training programme took the equivalent of 20 years off their thigh muscle age, leading to improved mobility. Strength workouts can keep the brain more active and also allow you to do more during the day. Older people who don’t exercise regularly may find walking into town or standing at the bus stop a lot more difficult than those who find themselves on a treadmill frequently.
There are hundreds of gyms around aimed at older people, some of which even offer classes aimed at older people and their needs, make sure you make use of these and they’re also another great chance to socialise with a large group who all have the same aim, to stay fit.