Choosing the right exercise for you


“Exercise should be regarded as tribute to the heart.”
  ~ Gene Tunney

Active seniors running outside in green nature

Some exercise possibilities

To help you choose a programme you can feel good about.


Benefits: cycling is gentle on the joints. It burns plenty of calories and improves your cardiovascular health. It can also be built into your day as a means of transport.

Considerations: a good quality bicycle can be expensive however you can get just as much exercise on a cheap bike, you just won’t go so fast! Your bicycle will need regular checks for signs of wear & tear and to be fixed, if necessary. Protective equipment (including a helmet) is essential. Be traffic conscious and plan your route or join a cycling club.

Online videos or DVDs

Benefits: Used at home can give you the expertise of an instructor without the expense or inconvenience of attending a gym. You can also work out whenever you have the time.

Considerations: You may need to use a variety of online videos or DVDs to keep your workouts interesting. You might like to exercise with a neighbour, to break the routine. You also need to follow instructions carefully and include warm-ups to avoid injury. Make sure the instructors on the videos are qualified. Just because someone is a celebrity does not mean they have relevant qualifications or knowledge.

Gym membership

Benefits: Gyms stock a wide range of equipment and often offer classes such as aerobics or pilates. Taking full advantage of your membership should give you plenty of opportunities to improve your all-round health and fitness. Instructors should be on hand to help you use equipment correctly and reduce your risk of injuries.

Considerations: Gym memberships can be expensive and gyms can be very busy at peak times, such as after work. If you think you may feel embarrassed or intimidated working out in front of people, find out when the gym is less busy.

Top tip If you can focus your keep fit at non-peak times the price of membership plummets and classes are less crowded.

Home fitness equipment

Benefits: Exercising on home fitness equipment is ideal for people who have to take their exercise in when they can grab a few minutes such as parents of small children or carers. You can also watch TV or play your inspiration music up loud.

Considerations: Home fitness equipment is expensive and takes up a lot of space. Many people stop using their home fitness equipment within a short period of buying it. A qualified person must show you how to use the equipment, otherwise you risk injury.

Top tip Home exercise when no-one else is there is risky if you have an fall. Make sure you have a way of getting help if you are incapacitated.


Benefits: Running is a weight-bearing activity so it helps to build strong bones. It’s one of the best ways to increase your cardiovascular fitness and burns lots of calories. The need for equipment is minimal, although it is recommended you buy a good pair of running shoes.

Considerations: Running-related injuries can be caused by the heavy load that running places on joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles throughout the body. It is vital that you build up your strength gradually from initial fast walking, through gentle jogging to running.


Benefits: Swimming is a low-impact activity. The buoyancy of the water supports your body so the risk of musculoskeletal injury is small. Swimming strokes exercise the entire body but particularly the muscles of the back, chest and arms. Swimming is an ideal form of exercise for most people, particularly people who are frail, elderly or obese.

Considerations: Swimming is a learned skill. You may need to take swimming lessons if you are a beginner. Swimming is not a weight-bearing activity, so unlike activities such as walking or running, you will not strengthen bones or burn as many calories.

Top tip
Don’t go swimming in the sea if there is a shark warning!

Team sports

Benefits: Team sports offer friendship and fun. It is easier to exercise when you are enjoying yourself. Most team sports, such as soccer or netball, quickly build cardiovascular health because of the required running and quick bursts of activity.

Considerations: The stop–start nature of most team sports may put strain on the joints and ligaments, which can increase the risk of injury, particularly of the knees and ankles. Team sports tend to be seasonal (such as winter or summer), so you’ll need an exercise plan for the off-season.

Also consider if this is in your nature. Team sports are both collaborative (with your team) and competitive (against the other team). You need to enjoy and not be stressed out by both of these elements.


Benefits: Walking is an ideal exercise, especially for beginners. It is free, easy to perform and doesn’t require any special training or equipment apart from a good pair of shoes. You can walk alone, with a friend or you can join a local walking group, or even start by catching the bus from a different stop.

Considerations: Some people feel unsafe walking the streets alone. Remember there are alternatives such as walking with a companion or a walking group.

Strength training – free weights

Strength training includes training with free weights, body weight training, chair exercises and rubber resistance.

Benefits: Strength training is a weight-bearing activity so it strengthens bones, builds muscle and burns calories. Strength training involves not just the targeted muscles but surrounding muscles too. Strength training can help to improve and maintain your independence in any day-today activity.

Considerations: Strength training must be built up gradually. Incorrect technique or trying to use heavier weights than you can manage may put you at risk of injuries. Get professional advice from a physiotherapist, exercise physiologist or qualified fitness instructor.

Strength training – machines

Benefits: Like training with free weights, training with machines is a weightbearing activity. Each machine is designed to target a specific muscle group so this activity is ideal for beginners.

Considerations: You’ll need either a gym membership or home equipment. You will need advice on the best type of equipment to achieve your health goals and match your body shape, and to be taught by a professional to ensure your routine builds up progressively.


The next section looks gives you some tips to help your memory.

Healthy Active Ageing

This blog post is an excerpt from Healthy Active Ageing, a series of mini-guides that together cover most of what we can do as human beings to make the later stages of our lives as positive as they can be. If you complete the details below we’ll email you one of the guides every until you have the full set. You will know a lot of the information but there is nothing wrong with a reminder every now and then; and there may even be some information which is new to you.


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