How To Add More Life To Your Years

“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years” [Abraham Lincoln].

My biggest motivator for exercising and following a healthy lifestyle comes from the above quote.  I really do want to add life to my years.  I want a body that is strong enough to enable me to be independent for as long as possible. In order to do this I know I need be flexible, maintain strength in my muscles and maintain bone density.  I also need to keep my heart and lungs healthy with moderate to vigorous cardiovascular exercise.

Gerantology is the scientific study of old age, the process of ageing, and the particular problems of old people (Oxford Dictionary definition).  Over the last decade, researchers in this area support the theory that disuse is a primary factor in the loss of function and diminished health.  Whilst it is inevitable that our metabolism will slow down, that we will lose some muscle mass and our bone density will reduce, it does not have to be debilitating or an excuse not to be active. Adopting a healthy and active lifestyle can slow and reduce that decline.

Dr DeVries (University of Southern California) has shown that both men and women in their 70’s and 80’s can achieve levels of vigour associated with people in their 40’s and 50’s.  He says that “regular participation in physical activity can raise the fitness level of an active 64 year old to that of an average, sedentary 30 year old”.  Dr Lief of the Harvard Medical School believes that exercise is the closest thing we have to an anti-ageing pill.   Other Gerantologists believe that once we reach the age of 50 the need for physical activity is even more crucial due to the effects of Sarcopenia (the term used for the loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength as a result of ageing).  Physical activity can also improve mental well-being (one’s mood) and increase memory function.

There are physical signs and symptoms of old age, of course, but some of the signs we put down to getting older are, in fact, due to unhealthy lifestyle choices.  Often now doctors are prescribing exercise, and nutritional changes, to help control or banish certain conditions such as high blood pressure and Type II diabetes, before prescribing medication.  Post-menopausal women are advised to participate in weight-bearing exercises in order to reduce the risk of osteoporosis (brittle bones).  Therefore in many instances (there are exceptions) one can choose, by improving one’s lifestyle, whether to have one of the above-mentioned diseases or not.

It is never too late to become physically active and being physically active need not take the form of a formal exercise regime but can include activities such as gardening and housework.  Active exercises can include biking, tennis, jogging, vigorous walking, dancing and resistance training programs.

An exercise programme for seniors should focus on functional exercises to provide a level of fitness to enable an individual to take care of themselves, particularly their personal care, and therefore retain their independence.    Exercises should be safe, effective, progressive and tailored to the needs and capabilities of the individual concerned ie they should take into consideration whether the individual has exercised continuously, whether they are healthy but de-conditioned and/or whether they have physical restrictions.

IGNITE fitness & wellness can support you in your fitness and wellness endeavours no matter what your age through group exercise and personal training.

Written by IGNITE personal trainer Karen Flawith

To book a PT session with Karen please call 800IGNITE or email