Moving more often can help you avoid a range of health conditions, including coronary heart disease (CHD). Regular movement helps control weight and reduce your blood pressure and cholesterol. If you have a condition already, it can help you manage it. As you age, being active helps maintain independence, prevent falls and delay onset of conditions such as osteoporosis.
It also lowers risk of dementia, can improve quality and quantity of sleep, how you look and feel, and ability to cope with stress. The more active you are, the bigger the benefits.
The more active you are, the bigger the benefits
There are simple steps we can all take to gain these benefits. The first is to move more every day; any amount of activity is better than none. Start by being active for at least 10 minutes per day at a moderate intensity. Try walking, dancing, swimming or gardening. If you are progressing well, build up to 150 active minutes a week.
Activities involving strength and balance will help improve mobility. Doing simple activities, like the ones in this article, at least twice a week in addition to your daily physical activity, can help you stay strong and balanced. They can be incorporated into your daily routine. For example, try some knee bends while waiting for the kettle to boil.
Muscle-strengthening activities usually make muscles feel warmer and you may get a ‘shake’ or ‘wobble’ during the activity. The next day, you will feel as if the muscles have been used. Strength activities include climbing stairs, tai chi, heavy housework or gardening.
Balancing activities usually make you concentrate on staying upright. They include dancing, tai chi, bowls and exercise classes that include standing and moving.
1. Front-knee strengthener
You can do this activity while sitting watching TV or listening to the radio. Raise your leg straight out in front of you, then lift it another inch, hold for a slow count of three, and then slowly lower it.
Repeat five times with each leg. Build up to 10 times per leg. If you want to test yourself further, try sitting away from the back of the chair, keeping a straight back.
2. Back-knee strengthener
Stand up straight in front of a bench or table. Bend one knee, bringing your foot slowly towards your bottom and hold for a slow count of three. Keep the knee of your bent leg slightly behind the knee of the straight leg. Slowly return to starting position.
Repeat five times with each leg. Build up to 10 times per leg. Both of these knee exercises strengthen the large muscles in your thigh that help you stand up and sit down. Developing these muscles will help with walking and climbing stairs.
3. Sit to stand
Sit on the front third of a chair. Put your feet flat on the floor and then slide them back slightly. Lean forward over your knees, keeping your head and shoulders high, and push up through your heels into a standing position.
Try not to use your arms. Sit back down slowly. Repeat five times, building to 10. This exercise will help you to get in and out of chairs more easily.
4. Knee bends
Facing a bench or table, place your feet shoulder width apart. Squat down about 10cm (4in) by slowly bending your knees. Return to starting position. Keep your back straight and don’t push your knees out beyond your toes.
Again, repeat five times, building up to 10. Hold each squat for longer as you become stronger. Knee bends strengthen muscles in your hips and thighs, improving balance. This will help you climb stairs, bend and walk.
5. Calf raises with support
Stand tall facing a bench or table with your feet hip-width apart. Slowly and with control, raise your heels off the ground. Hold for a slow count of three, then lower your heels back to the ground.
Repeat five times, building to 10. As your balance improves, try this activity without holding onto the table. This exercise strengthens calf muscles and toe joints, making activities such as reaching high cupboards and hanging out washing easier.
6. Toe raises with support
Stand tall facing a bench or table with your feet hip width apart. Hold onto the bench and come back onto your heels, raising the front of your feet off the floor. Lower your toes back down. Keep your body as straight as possible throughout.
Repeat five times, building to 10. As your balance improves, try this activity without holding onto the table. This activity strengthens your lower leg muscles, making it easier for you to step backwards.
7. Side hip strengthener
Stand side-on to a bench or table. Place the nearest hand on the bench and slowly lift the opposite leg out to the side. Hold for a slow count of three and then return to starting position. Keep your body upright and only move your leg.
Repeat five times for each leg, eventually building to 10. This strengthens hip muscles, helping with stepping up onto kerbs and steps.
8. Sideways walking
Stand up tall with your hands on your hips. Take 10 steps to the right, pause, then take 10 steps to the left.
You can use a wall or railing to support yourself, if necessary. This activity will improve your sideways movements.
9. Toe walking with no support
Stand tall and look ahead. Slowly come up onto your toes. Walk 10 steps forward while up on your toes. Lower your heels and turn around. Stand up on your toes again and walk 10 more steps.
You can use a wall or railing to support yourself, if necessary. This activity can improve balance, making tasks such as reaching high shelves easier.
10. Heel walking with no support
Stand tall and look ahead. Come back onto your heels (as in activity six). Make sure your body stays straight; do not stick your bottom out. Slowly walk 10 steps on your heels. Lower your toes and turn around. Come back onto your heels and take 10 more steps.
You can use a wall or railing to support yourself, if necessary.
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