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How to get super-fit at 65+ and really enjoy your retirement

As we all know that once we reach our sixties things begin to slow down. In particular our physical strength starts fading noticeably. But what many of us don’t realise is that we can still keep ourselves super-fit at 65+. Here’s what you need to know.

Exercising for the sake of being super-fit at 65+ has many benefits:

  • It boosts your immune system thus helping you to fight off inflammation and infections.
  • Exercising also alleviates the blues or feelings you get when you are depressed.
  • In addition, it also improves you energy and your ability to remember things

In short, it ups your overall sense of well-being and your ability to enjoy your retirement.

It’s worth doing.

There are two basic forms of exercising.

Aerobic and anaerobic exercising

Aerobic means with oxygen, while anaerobic means without oxygen.

Aerobic exercise (aka cardio) is any type of cardiovascular conditioning. It includes activities like brisk walking, swimming, running, or cycling.

During aerobic activities, your breathing and heart rate increases but not to the extent that you can only utter a few words at a time. You can perform aerobic exercises for a sustained period of time.

These exercises help keep your heart, lungs, and circulatory system healthy.

Anaerobic exercises, on the other hand, involve quick bursts of energy. They are performed at maximum effort for a short time. Examples include weightlifting or sprinting.

Anaerobic exercises make talking difficult.

Both forms of exercise are beneficial.

While aerobic exercise will increase your endurance and cardiac health, anaerobic exercise will help you burn fat and gain lean muscle mass.

The difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercising is the intensity with which an exercise is performed. Your breathing will let you know which one you are doing.

If you can speak fairly normally while exercising then you are doing aerobic exercise. If you can only pant a word or two, you are doing anaerobic exercise.

These two basic types of exercise work very differently.

How aerobic and anaerobic exercises work

When you exercise aerobically, your body uses oxygen to break down glucose and fat for energy.

As your exercising intensifies, your body runs out of the oxygen you need for your working muscles. It needs more energy than your aerobic system can produce.

Glucose is available within the muscles and this allows quick, short bursts of movement for a brief period of time without the need for oxygen, hence the term anaerobic (without oxygen).

Anaerobic exercise is fuelled using glucose through a process called glycolysis.

Glycolysis breaks down glucose into carbon compounds and generates energy quickly within muscle cells during high-intensity training without oxygen.  

Glycolysis produces lactate (lactic acid). Your body converts this lactate to energy without using oxygen. But lactic acid can build up in your bloodstream faster than you can burn it off.

The point at which lactic acid starts to build up is called the lactate threshold. The build-up of lactic acid is the reason why your muscles get so tired and sore after a high intensity burst of activity.

This soreness is usually just temporary and is no cause for concern.

Rest for a few minutes and the discomfort will disappear.

By engaging in anaerobic exercise regularly, your body will be able to tolerate and eliminate lactic acid more effectively. Your lactate threshold will rise.

That means you’ll get tired and sore less quickly.

The different kinds of exercising

There are various kinds of activity that qualify as exercise:

  • Light activity
  • Moderate aerobic activity
  • Vigorous intensive activity
  • Muscle strengthening activities

You need to practise all four kinds of exercise to become super-fit at 65+ !!!

Here are some examples:

Light activity

Light activity is, for example:

walking at a slow pacemaking you bed
moving around your house or apartmentusing the vacuum cleaner
cleaning and dustingStanding up

In other words, it is moving around rather than lying down or sitting in a chair.

Moderate activity

Moderate activity is, for example:

walking brisklyriding a bicycle
mowing the lawnplaying doubles in tennis

Moderate activity will make you breathe faster, raise your heart rate, and make you feel warmer. You are exercising at a moderate level if you can talk but not sing.

Most moderate activities can become intensive if you speed up or become more vigorous.

Intensive activity

Intensive activity is, for example:

jogging or runningswimming fast
riding a mountain bike at speed on hillsplaying singles tennis
hiking uphillplaying football
martial artsdancing energetically

Intensive means vigorous, and this activity level makes you breath hard and fast, to the point where you can’t say more than a few words without pausing to catch your breath.

Roughly speaking, 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise gives the same benefits as 150 minutes of moderately intensive exercise.

Exercise to strengthen muscles

To obtain the benefits of muscle strengthening exercises, you need to do them until you need a short rest before continuing.

There are many muscle strengthening exercises you can do without going to a gym, for example:

lifting weights or heavy shopping bagsexercising with resistance bands
doing yoga stretchesdoing sit-ups and push-ups
digging or shovelling in the gardendoing Pilates exercises
doing Tai Chi moves 

Muscle strengthening activities are not always aerobic activities. You need to do them in addition to your aerobic exercises.

The benefits of aerobic exercises

During aerobic exercises, you are continuously moving the large muscles in your hips, legs and arms.

You breath faster and deeper, maximising the quantity of oxygen in your blood. Your heart beats faster, increasing the flow of blood to you muscles and back to your lungs.

Your capillaries, the small blood vessels that supply the blood to your muscles, widen to deliver more oxygen to your muscles and carry away waste products such as carbon dioxide and lactic acid.

Your body also releases endorphins, natural painkillers that increase you sense of wellbeing.

No matter what age you are, aerobic activity is beneficial.

It is especially important for retirees so that they may enjoy life to the fullest.

Here are some of those benefits:

  • Increases your general fitness, strength and stamina
  • Increases heart and lung fitness as well as bone and muscle strength over time
  • Helps you get your weight down and keep it down
  • Wards off minor viral illnesses such as colds and flu by boosting your immune system
  • Reduces your risks of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, osteoporosis, stroke and some cancers
  • Helps reduce high blood pressure and blood glucose in persons with hypertension and diabetes, and can improve function and reduce pain for persons with arthritis
  • Can help manage coronary artery disease by strengthening your heart, so it can beat slower, pumps more efficiently and improves blood flow, and through reducing the build-up of plaque in your arteries by boosting HDL ‘good’ cholesterol and reducing LDL
  • Boosts you mood, reduces depression and anxiety and improves your sleep
  • Keeps your mind sharp, protecting your memory, reasoning, judgement and thinking skills, as well as helping prevent the onset of dementia and improving thinking skills in persons with dementia.
  • Helps you live longer … studies show that persons who exercise regularly live longer than those who don’t, and have a lower risk of dying of causes such as heart disease and certain cancers.

In short, aerobic activity improves your quality of life as you grow older … by keeping your muscles strong, maintaining your mobility, lowering the risks of falls and of injuries when you do fall, and keeping your mind sharp … all of which will help you live longer and enjoy your retirement.

The benefits of anaerobic exercises

Anaerobic exercises are certainly hard work. They push your body to use sources of energy stored in your muscles.

This hard work, however, is highly beneficial. Here are some of the ways anaerobic exercises boost your health:

  • Increases the strength and density of your bones and so decreases your risk of osteoporosis
  • Helps your body handle lactic acid more effectively
  • Helps you maintain a healthy weight
  • Increases your power and speed
  • Boosts metabolism
  • May increase our post-workout burn
  • Increases lactic acid threshold (see above) so you can work out harder for longer
  • Fights depression
  • Reduces the risk of diseases such as diabetes and heart disease through squats and push-ups
  • Protects joints due to better muscles mass and strength

The takeaway

If you want to get and remain super-fit at 65+ you should:

  • Reduce the time you spend lolling around, sitting or lying down and break up long periods of not moving at all with some sort of minimal activity
  • Undertake some physical exercise every day, even if it is just light activity
  • Do at least 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise a week or 75 minutes of vigorously intensive exercises a week. Spread these exercises over 5 days in one week.
  • On the other 2 days of the week do exercises that improve muscle strength.

And don’t forget your diet

All sorts of exercises will help you get fit and stronger. But if you truly wish to get and remain super-fit at 65+ you need to take you diet into account.

You can find a summary of best dietary practices for retirees here.

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