Fitness: why you should stay strong and balanced

Many of us realise the importance of doing 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity every week to stay fit and healthy. But a recent evidence review confirms the UK’s Chief Medical Officers’ advice that adults should also make sure they do strengthening and balance activities twice a week.

The review, which was commissioned by Public Health England (PHE) and the Centre for Ageing Better, found that muscle and bone strengthening and balance activities have great health benefits for all adults, including those aged 65 and older.

For older adults, strengthening and balance exercises may help prevent falls. That’s because poor muscle strength increases the risk of a fall by 76 per cent, says PHE. And if you’ve already had one fall, you’re three times more likely to fall again.

But it’s not all about fall prevention, says PHE. Keeping your muscles strong and improving your balance also help boost your mood, sleeping patterns and energy levels.

“Alongside aerobic exercise such as brisk walking, all adults should be aiming to do strengthening and balancing activities twice per week,” says Dr Alison Tedstone, Head of Diet, Obesity and Physical Activity at PHE.

“On average we’re all living longer and this mixture of physical activities will help us stay well in our youth and remain independent as we age.”

What should you do?

So what types of exercise could you do to strengthen your muscles and bones? The following are a few examples:

  • Ball games
  • Racket sports
  • Dancing
  • Nordic walking
  • Resistance training (exercises that use your body as resistance or training with weights)

To improve your balance you could start learning t’ai chi, ballet or yoga, or try some of the simple balance exercises provided by NHS Choices. Here’s one you can try right now:

  • Stand with your feet together, knees slightly bent.
  • Cross your right foot over your left.
  • Bring your left foot to join your right.
  • Try five cross steps on each side. The smaller the step, the more you work on your balance. However if you need to, put your fingers against a wall for stability.

Meanwhile if you’re at risk of having a fall, PHE experts also recommend supervised structured exercise at a pace that suits you to help maintain your independence and support healthy ageing (speak to your GP for more information).

If you need tips on ways of achieving your 150 minutes of physical activity a week, or more advice on strengthening and balance exercises, speak to your local Careway pharmacist.

Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.