Over 60? Stay fit and healthy forever by taking the stairs, gardening and walking

Five hours of light exercise doing day-to-day tasks will make sure you maintain mobility and fitness in later life

Woman running up stairs doing light-to-moderate activity
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Staying active and healthy should be part of your daily life, not just restricted to a workout session. If you can't do intense exercises due to health restrictions or age-related issues, incorporating light-to-moderate activity in your day-to-day life is paramount if you want to stay fit and mobile as you age. 

One prospective study, published by researchers from the University of California, found that light activity, such as walking or gardening or even shopping, might be responsible for protecting mobility and health in postmenopausal women. Participants who had no mobility disability at the start of the study, who spent the around five hours a day doing light-intensity activities such as walking, shopping and gardening, were 40% less likely to experience loss of mobility over a six-year period.

You don't have to be a gym bunny to stay well, although structured exercise can certainly help. Just staying active and healthy in everyday life, moving for extended periods of time in even light-intensity situations, is enough to maintain your mobility as you age. 

Senior author Andrea LaCroix, PhD, said: "Older adults who want to maintain their mobility should know that all movement, not just moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, counts.

Man gardening, doing light activity

(Image credit: Getty Images)

"We found that, among older women, light-intensity physical activity preserves mobility later in life."

Among this daily movement should be taking the stairs. Pressing upwards and climbing stairs helped another group of English postmenopausal women develop bone density, according to a study by the International Epidemiological Association. The effect strengthens muscle just like any other form of resistance training – but if you're already living in a situation in which you don't have stairs to climb in the house, you could opt for a brisk walk on a high gradient-setting on one of our best treadmills.

Developing and maintaining muscle is extremely important as we age. As we get older, our muscles weaken due to naturally-occurring atrophy, causing our bodies to become frail. Exercising our lower bodies by climbing stairs, and our upper bodies using dumbbells or the best resistance bands, can help strengthen our muscles and keep us healthy, fit and robust for longer. Strength training also improves our grip, which is associated with fewer falls in later life.

Even if you can't get to the gym or you aren't up to structured exercise, you can stay healthy by getting out into the garden, walking to the shops, or climbing those stairs as much as you can. Your body will thank you.

Matt Evans
Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and Channel Editor at Fit&Well. He's previously written for titles like Men's Health and Red Bull, and covers all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen kickboxer and runner. His top fitness tip? Stretch.