The short answer is “certainly not!”
Exercise is for everyone although it should of course be tailored to individual abilities and fitness levels.
The oldest client in my personal training business to date was 67 years old and he was fitter than many people less than half his age. The interesting thing about this man was that he couldn’t understand why his friends and peers were “content to spend their lives sitting in front of the television and waiting to die” (his words), and his friends thought he was mad for going to the gym every day to lift weights, keep his joints moving and keep his weight down.
I have also trained a 65 year old female who tackled exercises not dissimilar to those done by much younger individuals, albeit with slightly lighter weights and more frequent rests.
Both of these individuals had exercised on and off for many years and understood the health benefits of continuing to do so. They both also recognised that they felt happier and healthier for it.
Different exercise types and their benefits:
· Strength exercises (using weights) build muscles and increase your metabolism, which helps to keep your weight and blood sugar in check. They can also help to build up calcium density in the bones as muscles pull against the bones during the exercise, and this helps to protect against osteoporosis.
· Balance exercises build leg and core (the bit between your chest and hip) muscles, and this helps to prevent falls. Falling over is never great at any age (tripping over obstacles, slipping on ice, falling off the kerb, etc) and there seems to be a tendency for people to fall over more as they age, often resulting in broken hips. Having better balance can help to prevent this and help you stay independent as you age by avoiding the disabilities that could result from falling.
· Stretching exercises can give you more freedom of movement, by helping exercised muscles to recover and gradually loosening and lengthening tight or shortened muscles. This helps individuals to become/remain more mobile and with an increased ability to move can increase your enjoyment of activities such as golf and dancing. Stretching exercises alone will not improve your endurance or strength.
· Endurance exercises of moderate intensity are any activity for example walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, dancing, playing tennis, gardening, walking the dog, etc, that increases your heart rate and breathing for an extended period of time. If you are fitter you could try exercising more intensively for better results.
If you haven’t exercised for a while build up your endurance gradually, starting with as little as 5 minutes of endurance activities at a time and build up to at least 20-30 minutes a day (try to do it nearly every day). Less than 10 minutes a day has no real benefit whereas 20 minutes+ will help to keep the heart and lungs healthy.
Endurance activities should not make you breathe so hard that you can’t talk and should not cause dizziness or chest pain.
In summary, appropriate exercise works for all levels of fitness: there are young Olympic athletes through to people who do body building or extreme triathlon events in their seventies, and young people who do virtually no exercise if they can help it through to older people who think getting out of a chair is extreme exercise, and all the levels in between.
Reasons for exercising are much the same whatever the age group, and the recommendations for older exercisers include ensuring adequate warm-up and stretching takes place alongside the actual exercise, which should be appropriate to the individual’s fitness level. This works for all age groups and the only difference is that with greater age or reduced fitness there is a requirement for a longer warm-up & cool-down/stretch.
For every young person who wants to exercise to stay fit and healthy, there is an older person who wants to exercise for the same reason and because they can. It also gives them a real feeling of achievement.
Whatever your age, if you are not very fit or have not exercised for a while, it is important to get yourself checked out first, whether that is from a healthcare professional or a fitness professional who can check you for injuries, high blood pressure etc before you start. You might also want to seek advice about the most suitable form of exercise for you.
It is also important to remember to warm-up by doing some light exercise before exercising, maybe performing a few repetitions of weight bearing exercises without the weights or walking at a moderate pace and swinging the arms, to warm the muscles about to be used and raise your body temperature.
After exercise it is helpful to do a few stretches to help the warmed-up muscles to relax and recover, and work on maintaining your flexibility.
Finally, make sure you drink liquids when doing any activity that makes you sweat and dress appropriately for comfort whilst exercising to allow for appropriate movement and temperature control.