Specialists agree it’s never too late for exercise and activity to make a difference. “You can rejuvenate 20 years of lost strength through physical activity,” says Dawn Skelton, an exercise physiologist and professor of ageing and health . Even if you have been inactive for many decades, gentle activity now can reverse the decline.
Challenge: Up and go
Measure a 3m distance and place a dining room chair at one end. Ask a friend to stand at the other end with a stopwatch.
Sit yourself comfortably on the chair, get the friend to start the timer, then get up, walk the distance, walk back and sit down again. The clock stops the moment your bottom hits the chair.
A score of 12 seconds or less is excellent, if you score 13 to 20 seconds your balance could be impaired, 20 seconds plus could indicate problems with mobility.
Even if you have been inactive for many decades, gentle activity in your seventies can reverse the decline.
Your exercise aim: Vicky Johnston, a physiotherapist, recommends practising this at every opportunity. “If you’re watching TV, get up every time the ads come on, and lower yourself slowly when you sit back down, to work your muscles against gravity.
“If you slump back with an audible ‘oof’, you’ve not controlled your descent,” she says.
“Do something that gets you breathing a little more deeply than normal – for ten minutes three times a day, five days a week. Try marching on the spot while you’re washing up or getting off the bus one stop earlier.”
She also advises regular balance work – either through tai chi classes, or single leg stands.
“Balancing involves co-ordination of the muscles in the ankles and hips; this will make you more stable on uneven ground, or on a moving bus.”
Protect your knees by strengthening the thigh muscles. Sitting on a chair, straighten your legs in front of you, hold for five seconds and then slowly return to the starting point. Repeat 12 to 15 times.