Exercise after fifty – what works best? I am feeling my age and I can’t quite find an exercise that I am happy with. Just that short step over the fifty mark and suddenly bits of me are falling apart..and more to the point, I am worrying about it. A simple roll down means that I have the perfect view of my wrinkly knees. This is not good. I spoke to a woman the other day who was about to get fillers injected into her knees because they are giving the game away. Really? Should we care? Frankly what my knees look like are the least of my problems. I will just start wearing long trousers at all times to cover them up. What about my neck?? (polo necks) Or indeed my face?? (more difficult to cover up). Or my hips, my back, my thumbs?
This getting old business has been causing me concern for some time and I have been considering what to do about it. Firstly, what sort of exercise is appropriate for women of a certain age? I have been told that the best forms of exercise are a combination of walking, swimming and cycling. Basically forget running – it is not good after fifty apparently. It puts too much pressure on the joints. Luckily I gave up running a number of years ago, on account of many things – mainly that it felt far too hard and I was a little concerned about the rumour that running makes everything droop including your face. I was beginning to get injuries consistent with my body shouting at me that it didn’t like it. Shin splints mainly. I had to give up my marathon place a number of years ago on account of the injuries and to be honest I was not too sorry. I’m quite sure that running the marathon would have killed me. So instead I have taken to walking. Walking is good. It feels about right for my limbs and whilst it’s not excessively cardio-vascular, it’s good enough exercise for the heart if you walk fast. And you don’t have to look like an arse. You can wear normal clothes. OK I don’t have a dog, so people round my neck of the woods often ask me where my dog is and wonder why I’m bothering, but it’s good head space time I find and you can think, or talk to a friend whilst losing weight and build strength at the same time.
My friend, Inga Tulloch (an extremely good Physiotherapist) says that walking is the best form of exercise for our age group. She told me recently that “you get to a certain age when you have spent half your life ignoring your joints but putting them under pressure. If you want your joints to serve you well for the second half of your life, now is the time to to care for them. Reducing the impact will increase their longevity. The impact through your weight-bearing joints when you run is significantly more damaging than when you walk, swim or cycle – all of which will give you the aerobic fix that is good for your heart whilst preserving your joints.”
So taking her advice to heart, I have also started swimming again because it is gentle on the joints and good for muscle strength, but the problem with it is it’s so much bloody effort to do. It involves finding a pool, putting a swimming costume on (never a good look), bracing yourself for cold water, worrying about bodily hair, make-up, water in the ears and eyes, smelling of chlorine, washing your hair, what to do about the fact that the goggles leave a mark on your fact that stays for the whole entire day (please someone invent goggles for old people) so I’ve bought big ones instead of teeny ones that make your eyes nearly pop out so the lines are half way down my face which is marginally better than looking like you’ve aged 20 years overnight. I am not very happy about looking completely revolting at my local pool, although don’t know why – nobody cares. The fact that I have to do it wearing a swimming cap and earplugs means nobody speaks to me, but never mind…here I am amusing myself in the changing room this morning – see what I mean? I look ridiculous:-
So all that is left to try now is cycling…which I simply refuse to do on account of the fact that I think wearing lycra in public is even worse than the above mentioned swimming attire (but of course I appreciate that that is entirely debatable).
Pilates, stretch classes and yoga are also good to add to the above – they all keep you supple and Pilates in particular will help you build your core, which consequently helps support your spine and avoid injuries moving forward.
So what else is good? Snow shoeing? Bowls? Sailing? Golf? Or perhaps instead I should just take up sky-diving where my skin will wobble, or maybe planking, where I can’t see my knees, or mountain climbing, or perhaps I should give up all together and just sit in a deckchair with a good book.