Ideas for keeping fit. Nordic walking, swimming, cycling... How to choose the right physical activity for you.

No matter what your age, taking up some form of exercise is always a good idea. How should you take care of yourself when you are 50+? Are all exercises suitable? How can you avoid injuring yourself?

First of all, if we’ve only watched sport on TV so far, it’s worth consulting a doctor before making any changes to our daily activities. Perhaps ailments, which unfortunately quite often afflict us from middle age, are a barrier to certain disciplines. If, after consultation, the doctor doesn’t find a compelling reason not to take up physical activity, we can start.

Even just a walk can be a good start as it is the most basic form of exercise recommended for all ages. Almost all of us have a mobile phone, which can be very helpful here. There are many free apps to count your steps, which provide motivation to track and gradually increase the distance. They use a built-in sensor, like a pedometer, to not only count your steps, but also track calories burned. Another advantage is that you don't need to be online all the time. A simple search for ‘pedometer’ will give you plenty of options and, for the more demanding, there are applications or devices that can monitor things like your heart rate or blood pressure and also allow you to connect with friends to add some competition.

You should also think about appropriate clothes and shoes so that you are comfortable when walking. Your shoes must have good grip and provide stability for your foot. If you want to be active whatever the weather, your footwear should also be waterproof. Your choice of outfit also depends on the season. You can find a wide range of breathable sports clothing on the market to avoid your enjoyment of the activity being ruined by the sweat flowing down your back. When going to a sports store, it is worth asking for advice to help choose the right clothing.

When we have installed our applications, bought appropriate shoes and the right outfit, we can start our adventure with sport. At the beginning, you only need to walk enough so that you feel a little tired. A low intensity at the outset is a good idea. We don't have to start with the famous ten thousand steps a day. Why not do up to five thousand in the first week, seven in the second, etc.? Over time, it’s good to extend the distance or increase the pace. If gentle walking is not enough, to prepare yourself for the next discipline - Nordic walking, you can increase your stride length.

Nordic walking is recommended especially for people as they get older. Done properly, you use 90% of the muscles in your body. It has the same effects as running, but does not burden the spine or joints so much. In addition, Nordic walking will help improve cardiovascular fitness and improve your sense of balance. It’s worth knowing that when buying poles you need to pay attention to their length - multiply your height by a factor of 0.68. Also choose poles with a comfortable handle and a strap. If you’re just beginning, it is good to buy aluminium poles that are resistant to loads and breaks. There are a lot of them on the market to suit every pocket, and you can often get a watch to count your steps in the package. It’s also important to perform your movements correctly to reduce the risk of injury. Watch the tutorial video and it will be easier for you to learn the technique - https://youtu.be/zAmsHhc2zCw.

Dancing is another great way to increase our levels of physical activity. It not only improves coordination and regulates our breathing, but also shapes our figures and improves our joints. In addition to such obvious benefits, thanks to moving to the cha-cha rhythm, we can effectively relieve tension, strengthen the muscles of the back, abdomen, calves and arms. Moreover, dancing will also improve your mood, because while moving your body releases endorphins (the so-called happiness hormones), which will enhance your vitality. It’s worth searching for some dancing lessons for adults in your area. Try the nearest community centre. With each step of the newly learned dance, our sense of self-confidence will increase, and this will give you greater satisfaction with life. Dancing is a social activity. Visit 50plus50 Club (www.50plus50.com) to find a dancing partner and join dancing lessons together.

Swimming is undoubtedly one of the most beneficial sports for our body. One of its advantages is that it can be done all year round. By going to the swimming pool regularly, we strengthen our immune system, heart, and the cardiovascular system. The water gives us a gentle massage and can have a very good effect on the skin. By swimming, we relieve pressure on our spine and joints and improve the respiratory system. However, we must remember that not all styles are suitable for everyone. If someone is struggling with pain in the lower back, avoid swimming breast stroke. With this ailment, swimming front crawl is recommended because it relaxes the lumbar muscles and strengthens the muscles of the back. Why not try something different in the pool and at the same time enjoy the benefits of water? You can sign up for aqua aerobics, where a trained instructor will adjust the exercises depending on your abilities. An additional advantage may be that such classes are conducted in groups, which gives us an opportunity to meet new people. Use 50plus50 Club to find a pool partner. Exercising in water is also very good for rehabilitation if you have any mobility problems or struggle with pain. Additionally, taking your grandchildren to the pool is a great idea to spend time with them in an enjoyable way.

It’s only natural that as we get older our physical fitness decreases. Things we did without thinking about in the past, we now often do with considerable effort. We start to become aware of physical issues, such as pain in the joints, caused by their degeneration. Most of the changes in our body occur as a result of either too little physical activity or too much, sometimes due to our profession. A very good solution for various ailments of the musculoskeletal system is yoga. By doing this we will be able to maintain our fitness for a long time. Even if we haven't exercised for many years, we shouldn't delay taking something up. Yoga could be an ideal place to start for those who do not feel very athletic. Its benefits are numerous: it’s safe for our joints, prevents osteoporosis, strengthens and stretches our muscles, oxygenates the body, reduces the risk of dementia, and has a positive effect on our circulatory system. We must remember that our body is an inseparable whole with our psyche. The saying "A healthy mind is a healthy body" is completely appropriate here. As we practice positioning our bodies while exercising, the relationships between the nervous system, musculoskeletal system and sense organs improve. Given yoga’s popularity, finding the right school or course shouldn't be a problem. You can even start your yoga adventure at home. If you don't know how, here's a beginner's yoga link, https://youtu.be/mghptIaDNuk.

Another of the safest exercises for people over fifty is Pilates - a set of exercises aimed at stretching and making all the muscles of the body more flexible: https://youtu.be/VJT6CPSK94Q. You can also try exercises using resistance bands, which are inexpensive, light and offer a lot of possibilities: https://youtu.be/V2xpFUcoo2w.

Last but not least we can’t forget about cycling. In addition to having a positive effect on the knee joints, back and abdominal muscles, this form of activity is especially recommended for diabetics, overweight people or people with high blood pressure. It is enough to go on a bike trip once or twice a week to improve your fitness. When selecting a bike make sure that it is the right size, consider getting one with a low frame and don’t forget about a comfortable saddle. For beginners or people who would like to try more challenging distances or terrain, an electric bike can also be a great alternative. Once you try one, you will not want to go back to riding a traditional two-wheeler. Cycling can also greatly influence our well-being. We can get out into nature and remember cycling in a group also adds to the speed and enjoyment. And of course, you can try to find a companion in 50plus50 Club. ;-)

Remember that our quality of life depends mainly on us. Physical activity will definitely increase it.

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