It is now March, we are officially in spring. The days are getting longer and (hopefully) the temperatures will improve, and we will soon see some sunshine.
January has traditionally been the time of year that we all make resolutions to get fitter, healthier and more active. However, the dreary cold at the beginning of the year is not really conducive to eating salads and starting a new exercise routine. Hardly surprising then that most of us, despite our good intentions, will have well and truly fallen off the wagon within a very few weeks.
With the advent of longer, lighter and warmer days perhaps spring, would be a better time of year to kickstart your health and fitness goals.
We're not talking about joining a gym, although if you can afford it and, more importantly, will use it, that may not be such a bad idea (more on this later) but small changes can make a big difference.
Exercise - some of us love it, others loathe it but what options are available to an older person?
If you have reasonable mobility, get out in the fresh air for a walk as often as possible. Walking is free, you can do it at your own pace and even 10 minutes outside, walking around the block for instance, is better than nothing.
Once you have built up some stamina and can go a little further, take a bus (or drive) to the countryside or a local park. The time you spend out in nature is as valuable as the exercise.
Check to see if there are any local walking groups you could join. They may organise transport to new areas and you will also develop a new social network.
Swimming is a non-weight bearing form of exercise, making it easier on the joints. Many municipal swimming pools have sessions aimed at the older person. There are usually concessionary prices too.
Can't swim? Check to see if lessons are available - learning a new skill is a proven way of improving your brain health too! .......so it's win win!
Aqua aerobics is also worth considering, the water supports you as you are taken through a routine of exercise (often to music).
You may think that yoga is all about twisting and bending your body into seemingly impossible positions, but there are actually many different types of the practice.
Seated yoga (or Yin Yoga) is becoming increasingly popular with older people because, as the name implies, you remain in a seated position during the entire session. Positions are held for between 45 secs and 2 mins and gravity does most of the work for you.
Restorative Yoga focusses more on relaxation, both of the mind and body. Traditional yogo poses are modified, making it easier for beginners to follow.
For the bendier amongst us, Hatha Yoga is perhaps the best known of yoga practices and classes are available for all levels. Hatha classes are slow paced and in addition to the actual movements, emphasis is given to your breathing.
A healthy mind is just as important as a healthy body and meditation is one way to help you clear the 'busyness' of your mind.
Guided meditations (where you listen to someone's voice) are widely available online. Focussing on one thing (in this case the voice) enable you to clear your mind of distractions, resulting in a calm relaxed state.
Meditative practices often go hand in hand with yoga and sessions will often begin/end with a relaxation period designed to introduce meditation.
There's something about dancing which makes (most) people happy. The combination of music and movement is a match made in heaven.
Whether you choose to dance alone in your kitchen; take up Salsa, Ballroom or even Street Dance, you will increase your heart rate, your flexibility and your strength. You'll also release endorphins (as with all exercise) that will improve your mood and mental health.
Look for classes in your local area and don't think that you have to attend with a partner, plenty of people will be there alone too.
Join a Gym
You may feel you are too old for a gym, but many older people are finding a new lease of life through a gym membership.
It needn't be as expensive as you may fear either, as many council run facilities offer reduced rates for older people. Attending during the day, when many other users will be at work, also means that you will benefit from quieter sessions.
A trainer should be able to help you develop a programme tailored specifically for you and your abilities and they will show you how to safely use the equipment.
Your Diet and Lifestyle
Have a look at your diet. Is it heavily swayed to one food group or another? Are you eating enough fruit amd veg?
Eating healthily need not be expensive, frozen vegetables are cheaper than fresh and , in many cases, have been proven to be more nutritious. Try adding vegetables to dishes like chilli and bolognaise sauces which you could make in bulk and then freeze for those days when you don't feel like cooking.
Make simple swaps; for example; switch white bread for wholemeal, sugary cereals for porridge, a piece of fruit instead of a sticky pudding,vegetable oil instead of animal fats like lard or goose fat when cooking. Watch out for too many pastries, biscuits and carbohydrates, as being aware of your sugar intake is important if you suffer from diabetes and can cause no end of additional health problems. Join your local weight lose group, not only will you learn great tips on how to eat healthily but you will make new friends too!
Try to eat a couple of portions of fish per week, including oily fish like mackerel - tinned is fine but look out for the salt content.
If you do smoke, why not cut back? Your GP can advise you on suitable nicotine replacement therapies and you might see a real inprovement in your over all health as well as your bank balance.
As with most things in life, it's all about balance and depriving yourself of something you enjoy will only make you crave it more! So indulge but in moderation, make things an occasional treat as opposed to an everyday item.
Give it a Go......
It's never too late to improve your health and fitness and you never know, along the way you may just make some new friends.