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We are only as old as our physiological age!

May 2013


We all know we need to keep active to keep healthy. Now it seems that keeping fit and active can actually make us younger!

exercise can affect our “physiological” ageWell, not exactly of course, our birth date will always remain the same. But the amount of exercise we do can affect our “physiological” age.

Julia Attias, a Health Mentor for Nuffield Health, has given us some more information:

“The concept of ageing is a scary one, and causes us all innate concerns, and yes in truth, ageing can cause a number of physiological issues, including increasing numbers of falls (often attributed to musculoskeletal wasting) and increased risk of illness and disease. However, there are effective methods that can help to slow age-related physiological decline.

“Have you ever watched a marathon runner in his 70’s and wondered how he is so fit and healthy “at his age”? Chronological age can be very different to physiological age; he may be 70 by his date of birth, but his physiology might represent that of somebody far younger. How is this possible, you might ask? By staying active regularly and consistently throughout your entire life; that’s how. Inactivity is one of the main promoters of the ageing process, and of future disease risk. If you haven’t kept regularly active from your youth, don’t fret; it is never too late to start. You might not ever be a marathon runner, but walking up that set of stairs instead of taking the lift can be a great feat among the ageing population.

“Now that we know that exercise helps to prevent age-related physiological decline, what are the best exercise modes for the elderly demographic? Generally speaking, we want 30 minutes of moderate cardiovascular activity, 5 days weekly – this can be accumulative i.e. split in to 3 x 10 minute bouts if desired. Activities that do not provide high impact are generally desirable - especially if bones are becoming frail - so as to not exacerbate the frailty. Having said that, some impact is necessary to keep bones necessarily “loaded”, in order to maintain their strength and help prevent against osteoporosis. Fast walking on an incline is a good example of an exercise that provides the right amount of impact, without overloading. Swimming and classes like aqua are great for steering clear of impact, whilst also providing some weight-bearing resistance.

“In a recent Nuffield Health survey of 2,000 people, 19.96% of women and 21.98% of men said that not being able to do the activities they enjoy ranked as one of their top concerns of ageing. Functional training – using activities you would use in daily life, and repeating them as an exercise workout – is a great way to help maintain functionality. Squatting with a chair behind you, getting on and off of a stability ball like it is a chair, wall pushups, and the “get up and go” test are all examples of functional activities that could be pursued.

“Research also shows 16.93% of women and 15.03% of men said that losing flexibility was also amongst their top 3 ageing concerns. Stretching is paramount to this; keeping muscles loose will help to prevent injury and stiffness. A personal trainer can offer assisted stretching, which is more beneficial and helps to aid flexibility, but you can enhance your own stretches by using a resistance band or even a towel. Yoga classes are also a good exercise mode in helping to enhance flexibility and suppleness, and promoting correct posture in order to prevent back pain.

“It can often be difficult to find the motivation to exercise for anyone at times, but sometimes more so as we age. Combining exercise with socialising can be a useful way to help combat this. Many health centres have cafeterias which provide a nice setting to relax and have a drink after a workout with your peers. This can often make the exercise session part of an “event”, which often helps to shift the mind-set to partaking in more of a social experience rather than just exercise exclusively.

“Remember: we are only as old as our physiological age!”

For more information, and also to take advantage of a free one day pass for any of the 65 Nuffield Health Fitness and Wellbeing Centres across the UK, visit


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