Posted by: Jenna | 2008/10/19

Possible to start exercise at 52?

I' m quite embarrased to ask my question, but appreciate the anonymity of this website, and the type of sympathetic responses you gave to previous queries.

I would like to know whether it is possible to start exercising at 52, and whether it would have any benefits at this late stage, or whether the damage has already been done by years of sedantic lifestyle.

In my youth I was a keen but not brilliant hockey player and kept a relatively good level of fitness well into my thirties. But that was it.

My husband died 2 years ago, and ever since I' ve gained about 15kg, and I' ve become too scared to go for walks alone outside. Since I look after my 4-year old granddaughter during the day, and don' t have the funds to join a gym, I don' t have much opportunity to find exercise outside my home. We sometimes go for walks, but at her pace and not very far, so I don' t get much exercise out of this. The only other " exercise"  I get is climbing the 17 steps of my double storey house a few times a day out of necessity. My granddaughter gave me a new lease on life, and I really would like to live a long and healthy life to see her grow up. A friend of ours gave me an oldish electronic treadmill (runs well at a gentlish slope, but doesn' t go further up or down), but I' m not sure how to start an exercise programme (walking) that would be effective in the long run.

Would it be possible to start something now, and do you have an example of a programme that may gradually build up my fitness and health level? So that I can perhaps aim for something like a fun walk next year? Or is it too to even try?

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Our expert says:
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HI Jenna

It's absolutely NEVER too late to start exercise, and you've got more than enough time and opportunity to get all the benefits of training, and then some. You must not feel like your time has passed, because you've missed on a few years of training. There's no time like the present, and you'll find that some regular exercise makes as much, if not more, impact on your life than it would for anyone else.

So where to start? The treadmill is a good idea to begin with, but don't rule out getting outside to train just yet. What about finding some friends who will train with you? You might think that impossible, but you never know, perhaps your example will inspire them to get fit as well, and you'll have a group of regular walkers going in no time. I think you'd be surprised at how many people are in the same situation as you - wanting to train, but not knowing how and being too nervous to begin. You can be the ice-breaker and the inspiration for them!

So what I would do is begin with the treadmill, and do maybe 15 to 20minutes of walking, four or five times a week. Just to ease yourself into things. If you go to the FItness page of this website, then click on "Programmes", you'll see a walking 5km and a walking 10km programme. You can take your pick of the two, I'd go with the 5km one first, and then graduate to the 10km programme later. They're both very easy to begin with, and then build up, which is exactly what you need.

I think the goal of entering a fun walk next year is easily within reach. In fact, you might even manage a 5km walk by the end of the year, and who knows, maybe a 10? But don't let your mind get ahead of your body, just go one week at a time, enjoy the process, and see how it pans out in the future. But like I said, consider getting a group together for people to walk with you, so that you can get outside and enjoy the outdoors while you train.

Good luck!


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