Ageing better!

Published by Tony Mullin on

AKA, How to add up to 20 healthy years onto the end of your life

The marvellous Bramley Walking Wanderers, with the Shadow Chancellor!

Our West Leeds Women’s Walking Football Team

As you grow older, being active is more important than ever. Regular exercise can help improve muscle mass, manage symptoms of illness or pain, support independent living, and reduce your chances of developing cardiovascular or neurodegenerative diseases. Our vitality peak is 30, so it is downhill unfortunately after that, losing around 1% a year of muscle strength, and power, and bone mass every year. And our lungs and heart are losing efficiency at a similar rate. anyone over the age of 40 should be thinking about ‘ageing better’, bearing in mind regular exercise can reduce the process of ageing related decline in our bodily systems by no less than 20 years! 

Twenty years, wow, that’s got to be worth aiming for, hasn’t it? The thing is, as a society we have done an unbelievable job of increasing age span, i.e. life expectancy, in the last 100 years or so, from 44 in 1900 to over 81 today. Yet we pay little if any attention to making sure those extra years are healthy ones. Many illnesses we associate with old age; heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetis, chronic conditions like arthritis and back pain are in fact lifestyle illnesses, and can be avoided with some regular exercise and activity, and a bit of strength training! (oh yeah, and a decent diet, we have another blog on that!)

Lecture over. At ‘Your Back Yard we have received some funding from Leeds City Council Housing Action panel, to pilot an approach to help older adults slow down the pace of that decline, to increase the number of healthy disease and illness free years in later life.

Part of this approach has been to design an exercise and activity programme specifically for older adults, anyone over the age of 40 really, and then to provide 1-1 support to help people adopt it and embed it into their lives. The programme, which can be found here, is divided into 5 parts; a warm up section, a cardio section, a high intensity interval section, a strength section and a warm down.

It is recommended to book end a strength session with a warm up and warm down, and the cardio one with a warm down, and a few stretches if you have the time. The High Intensity Interval training (HIIT) section is designed as an optional add on to the cardio section.

The strength section component has nine exercises, specifically designed to include every major muscle group in the upper and lower body. A number of other strength exercises are included that could be added in, but the key thing is to do at least the nine exercises in the programme together.

If you can do 5 sessions a week, of at least 30 minutes, including at least 2 strength sections, then all the benefits listed below can be yours! It doesn’t have to be a structured session, a good half hour or so walking the dog (as long as you go at a decent pace and don’t amble..i.e. get that heart rate up!) can be one of your five a week. To support you, we have created a video demonstrating all the exercises (its not that easy describing them in words!) which is on our You Tube channel. And, if you would like any 1-1 advice, or support, or have a few questions, just drop us a line through the website at and we will get back to you. All free at the point of delivery, like the NHS, only loads quicker!

Some benefits of exercise to older adults:

Cardio respiratory; better cholesterol profiles, reduces blood pressure, protection against heart diseases, more effective heart and lungs

Skeletal; increases bone mass density; better joint stability, better posture, less lower back pain, less brittle bones, better immune system

Neural, recruitment of muscle fibers, better nerve connections-less falls

Cognitive, better attention span, quicker thought processing, improves memory/recall,   

Muscular; increased muscle mass, more lean muscle, better mass, tone and shape-through hypertrophy

Social-the cup of tea/beer/chat afterwards-priceless!



Categories: YBY News