Fitness 1

Exercise benefits for successful ageing– part 1 of 2

I’ve already mentioned the importance of remaining active in several of my earlier posts, notably the exercise intro. This week, I’ll be covering the benefits of exercise and the impact on ageing. As I have a lot to say on this subject, you can find part one below today covering exercise benefits, and the second part will come out over the weekend.

The benefits of exercise are widely cited these days in the media, across the internet and in health-related fact sheets, but I believe they are worth repeating:

  • improves muscular and cardio respiratory fitness
  • improves bone health and strength
  • reduces the risk of high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even some cancers
  • helps to manage weight and reduces risk of becoming obese

Benefits with age in mind

The benefits associated with ageing are covered nicely within two of the great books that I’ve read in recent months, since I’ve been on my personal Age Life Balance journey: The 10 Secrets of Healthy Ageing and The Ageless Body:

I attach the link of the UK infographic, designed to help people understand the benefits of exercise, including some suggestions of how different exercises could be integrated into our lives. Whilst this seems over simplified, designed to appeal to a wide audience, I love the way that lifestyle aspects are highlighted e.g. walking, taking the stairs, carrying shopping, showing that it isn’t always about engaging in sport, which could be off-putting for many people. I’ll address this more in the lifestyle sub-section below.

  • helps keep joints mobile and bones strong
  • minimises risk of diabetes
  • boosts energy
  • helps keep heart healthy and blood pressure low
  • moderate exercise decreases your appetite
  • exercise boosts your metabolic rate and beats the bulge
  • resistance exercise benefits hormone production
  • exercise is a great way to reduce stress
  • the benefits of exercise are cumulative over time

Words of Wisdom

What’s more, many of those interviewed to date as part of my Words of Wisdom initiative maintain active lives. Some of these are even considered ‘fighting fit’ through dedicated effort today (including an inspirational fitness instructor), but perhaps more importantly, throughout the course of their lives. Others are active and energetic as a result of the activities and interests they pursue, more as a positive side-effect. Whilst some of the interviewees have underlying medical conditions, including asthma, angina and arthritis, these don’t appear to have deterred many of them from pursuing active lives.


As I’ve already mentioned, taking exercise and building or maintaining fitness doesn’t necessarily mean engaging in sport or working out in a gym. There are many alternative (or additional) activities that can bring similar health benefits: walking, gardening, cleaning, decorating, chopping wood, sweeping leaves, carrying shopping, shovelling snow and volunteering activities. Taking the stairs rather than lifts or escalators, walking or cycling to perform chores rather than driving every time, getting off at a different bus, tram, train stop, parking a little further from the shops etc. are also options. Much of this comes from conscious lifestyle choices which become habits over time.

It’s probably proof of me telling my kids “we’ve got legs” so often when we’re searching for a parking place, that I now hear this message from their own mouths, so hopefully some of these habits can be inherited or passed on too.

Maybe this is something I’ve inherited too. My dad proudly claims to have undertaken limited amounts of formal exercise during his life, yet he’s one of the fittest septuagenarians I know, through a life of regular long nature walks, gardening, mucking out stables etc.

State of play

Recognising the benefits of exercise and acknowledging that it doesn’t (necessarily) have to be hard work, you’d think that everyone would engage. However, recent UK stats show that only 36% of adults (>18 years) take regular exercise. There are similar patterns in the US, with 49% of adults meeting the Physical Activity Guidelines for aerobic physical activity, but just 21% for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity. This both bewilders me and saddens me in equal measure.

The Joy of Exercise

I’m a pretty active person and sometimes friends remark “I wish I enjoyed exercise, like you do”. I’m not sure I like all types of exercise; I know that there are plenty of forms of exercise that I’m not interested in or that I know I don’t like. However, I really do enjoy the ones that I do, so maybe finding something you enjoy is the key. I tried a variety of things when I was younger (many of which I no longer do) and even in the last few years I’ve discovered new interests, like yoga, as well as combining some of my existing interests into triathlons, so it’s definitely worth trying out different things to find out what you enjoy – as you’re much more likely to stick at it.

When I think about why I exercise, the known benefits lurk somewhere at the back of my mind, but there are other motivations that far outweigh them. I’ll be taking a closer look at these in part two, as well as some reasons people cite for not exercising.


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