Feeling Great: Why exercise is the best medicine, whatever your age

105-year-old Lil Hansen doing a workout.

105-year-old Lil Hansen doing a workout.

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Would you believe me if I said there was a 105-year-old woman who teaches yoga? I was pretty shocked too, to be honest!

And when I read about this incredible woman, I just had to share this with you – because if there’s one thing I want you to take from this article it’s this - that you’re NEVER ‘too old’ do exercise.

Now typically when we think of a yoga instructor, we picture someone who is young, flexible and trendy.

But this 105-year-old woman, Lil Hansen, is far from that stereotype.

She may be 105, but she still teaches a weekly yoga class at her local senior centre. And the most interesting part? Lil credits her regular yoga practice as one of the reasons WHY she’s lived so long.

Talk about inspirational. Seeing this story also got me thinking about one of our patients, Gillian.

Now Gillian may not be 105, but at 94 she’s not far off! Let me tell you her story.

Early one morning, about four years ago, when Gillian was 90, she said her left arm was hurting, between her shoulder and elbow.

Scared that Gillian was having heart problems, her daughter called the doctor, who did some tests.

One test required her to walk on a treadmill.

The nurses were worried that Gillian would lose her balance and hurt herself – but she kept up with no troubles at all and even had enough breath to let the nurses and doctor know that she saw a personal trainer once a week, and to this day she still does!

And that pain in her arm turned out to be nothing to worry about in the end.

So where am I getting at with these two stories of these inspiring women?

Several studies have been done to show that even a low level of exercise can bring health benefits – just 15 minutes of walking a day can add three to five years extra to your life.

Let’s take a look at just some of the benefits: Exercise helps keep ageing bodies healthy by increasing blood flow to the brain, carrying extra oxygen and other nutrients that keep you on the ball and feeling great.

It also helps keep blood pressure and your blood sugar levels steady, lowering the risk of any vascular problems creeping up on you.

Exercise can also lower the risk of dementia by keeping the part of the brain where we make and store memories – a healthy size and functioning the way it should.

Of course, as we get older the body ages, and it’s inevitable that we will have our limits, but if you’re thinking you’d like to start exercising now – it’s always best to start slowly and move from zero to something – even if that’s a 10-minute gentle walk.

Back to Gillian, exercise hasn’t always meant the gym. Even though she sees a personal trainer once a week, she also keeps fit by doing daily tasks around the house like cutting the lawn, and gardening – one of her favourite things to do when the sun comes out!

So don’t let the word exercise put you off - it can be anything from a gentle walk down the seafront to gardening, and walking the dog to taking up a yoga class. It doesn’t have to be tough.

The key is finding something you ENJOY, to help make exercise and short bursts of daily movement realistic for you and possible.

After all, who REALLY enjoys getting heavily out of breath and looking like a red tomato after a workout??

What’s stopping you?