Get into shape – proven paths to better health

Discover why now is the perfect time to get into shape and why regular activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health.

get into shape - couple on exercise mat

Before the term ‘get into shape’ became hip and trendy, it had been the stuff of nightmares, conjuring images of gym instructors and cross-country in the rain for many people – myself included. However, fitness needn’t be a topic we approach with such trepidation. There are countless ways that you and those you care about can get your bodies back shipshape without having to bust a gut running.

Knowing your limits and making a plan that suits you

It’s important to be realistic when planning your first steps into a fitness plan and it should be tailor made for you – one size most definitely does not fit all here! Whether you suffer from joint pain, find yourself frequently out of breath or simply don’t have access to the same facilities as others, there are exercises for everyone and you can start as small as you’re comfortable with.

It’s also important to identify what it is you want to get out of your exercise plan. Are you aiming to improve your muscle strength and balance, for instance, or would you like to give your heart a helping hand with a bit of cardio? It could be any range of reasons, or a combination of them all, but its worth bearing in mind that some exercises will be better suited to a certain area of your health than others. To put it into perspective, doing press ups isn’t likely to be as much help with weight loss as cycling is.

Now, this may all seem like a mountain to climb, but it really is more of a molehill, and the physical benefits repay the effort ten-fold. According to a study by Harvard University, the average person gains two hours of life expectancy for every hour of exercise they do, and studies have linked fitness in men to ‘a 30% reduction in risk of impotence’. Now, we’re not saying exercise is the key to eternal life but, if it is, you heard it here first!

Social group - Get into shape.

Mind over matter: The mental and social benefits of exercise

While the physical benefits of exercise are obvious, an active lifestyle can have a profound effect on your social and mental wellbeing. It’s no secret that staying active past the first couple of weeks can feel like a bit of an uphill battle as the longer-term results won’t start revealing themselves until a little later. With this in mind, though, there are a few tricks you can use to keep yourself going.

Exercise is a naturally social activity and putting in the effort as part of a group or even just with one other person can be a great way to feel a real sense of community and intimacy. Not only does this keep you on track with your physical fitness, but it can genuinely help to fight off loneliness and the seasonal blues too. Joining a leisure centre, for instance, or trying your luck with virtual fitness communities, are great ways to connect with people who have similar interests and abilities to you. Even something as simple as reaching out to friends or striking up conversation with fellow walkers/ runners/ cyclists can make a massive difference in keeping our motivation up!

Woman cycling - get into shape
Cycling is a great way to get cardio exercise with reduced impact on knees and ankles.

There are also plenty of mental benefits to regular exercise. As our bodies engage in physical activities, they release hormones called endorphins which act as pain killers and promote a sort of release which can help make you feel happier and more fulfilled. Not only this, but these endorphins are thought to be particularly effective at warding off the effects of mental illnesses like anxiety and depression.

For those out there who struggle with restless nights, an active lifestyle is also thought to help reduce the effects of chronic insomnia in as little as four weeks. According to studies from the National Library for Medicine, regular exercise can send you to sleep 13 minutes quicker and help you stay in deep sleep for a further 18 minutes. Now, this may not seem important –but this can make a massive different to mood, fatigue, and cognitive function particularly as we get older.

Couple walking - get into shape
Get into shape: Exercise needn’t be taxing, start off with a simple walk to build up resilience.

Best exercises for beginners: Get into shape

So, shelving the marathons and weightlifting for now, what are the best gateway exercises for you? Here are just a few examples!

Water aerobics

If you have access to a local leisure centre – or, for the real high rollers among you, your own swimming pool – exercising in the water could be an ideal way to remain active while taking pressure off your joints and strengthening your muscles. Water aerobics is a particularly good option with this in mind; it tends not to be as strenuous as swimming, while classes and group sessions can help with the social side of exercise outlined earlier.


While it may be seen as the boring option for outdoor exercise, walking is such a versatile, low-intensity activity which can be the perfect steppingstone towards a more active lifestyle. Whether you’re walking those extra few streets between bus stops, doing your food shopping on foot, or taking on hills and dales on hikes, incorporating a recommended 10 minute brisk walk each day can help to build stamina, strengthen heart function and trim away any extra pounds. A top tip for regular walking is to make sure your ankles and feet are well-supported by your shoes to mitigate blisters and strains, while remembering to keep well-hydrated!

Seated yoga - get into shape.
Seated yoga is a fantastic low-impact way to build up strength.

Seated Yoga or Pilates

The hip and trendy newcomers to the world of fitness, yoga and Pilates are ideal ways to exercise for those of us who aren’t quite as mobile or don’t feel up to jumping into the deep end as it were. Among their many benefits, yoga and Pilates are known to help against back pain and arthritis, gradually improves balance, strength and flexibility, and promotes relaxation. Yoga is also one of the most accessible ways to stay active with seated and supported variants catering to all levels of mobility.

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If you found Get into shape – proven paths to better health helpful, you’ll find more tips for living well as an older person on our blog.

Images: Centre for Ageing Better and krakenimages on Unsplash

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