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    Is it ever too late to start working out?

    Ashu Jain, popular as ‘Not Just A Grandma’ on Instagram, was 54 when she decided to embark on her fitness journey. After a trip with her husband, seeing her photos shocked her. She realised she had gained a lot of weight and looked unrecognisable.

    Now, at 56, she inspires millions on social media with her workout videos. She hits the gym thrice a week, she tells India Today.

    After consulting a doctor who diagnosed her with hypertension and high cholesterol, she preferred changing her lifestyle to taking the lifelong course of motivation. It all started with short walks.

    The first time she went for a walk, she would stop every couple of minutes to catch her breath. But 8 months later, she completed a 22 km walk without any hassle.

    That further inspired her to take the next step in her fitness journey. She added subtle weight training to her at-home workout routine, and then later found a trainer who supervises her as she exercises in a gym in Dehradun now.

    When Ashu’s mother-in-law said that she would end up breaking her bones by exercising at this age, her response was, “I will have no bones left if I don’t do it.”

    With over 1 lakh followers on Instagram, Ashu Jain wants people to understand that it is never too late to start a fitness routine.

    Though she admits that she never had chronic age-related issues like arthritis or osteoporosis problems, she still believes strength training (under supervision) is the answer to managing the issues.

    Health experts agree too.

    “Age should not serve as a deterrent but rather as a motivation to prioritise health and well-being,” says Dr Debashish Chanda, orthopaedics and joint replacement specialist, CK Birla Hospital in Gurugram.

    Dr Chanda adds that exercise can be particularly beneficial for individuals with joint-related issues such as arthritis and osteoporosis.

    “Engaging in appropriate exercises can help alleviate symptoms, strengthen supporting muscles, and improve joint flexibility and mobility,” he says.

    Second lease of life

    A person who defied age as well as health problems by embarking on his fitness journey at the age of 54 is Dinesh Mohan. He is now 65, and a professional model.

    In his 40s, he was grappling with chronic depression that led him to spend 8 to 9 years in his room. For a year, he was entirely bedridden. Depression brought along a set of other issues like obesity, diabetes and vertigo.

    The person who couldn’t walk now takes over the ramps, flaunting his envious physique and heavy-bearded looks.

    It was at the age of 54, after almost a decade of suffering, that he decided to fight back and reclaim his life, he tells India Today.

    It started with the aim of losing weight, for which he underwent a strict diet routine. Losing a significant number of kilos within 10 months and realising that medical conditions like diabetes were now under control further pushed him to do better.

    He started swimming and eventually joined a gym to build muscles and tighten the loose skin caused by weight loss. And then modelling came his way, though it was never a part of the plan.

    Dinesh Mohan, who has wowed the internet with his transformation and a glamorous career that automatically came as a by-product, says that it is the willpower to live life to its fullest that keeps him going.

    “People have this mindset that now they are too old to start something new. I had this mindset too. But if they have the will to live a better life, they can do it. I did it too,” he tells us.

    What experts say

    The notion of starting a workout regimen later in life can certainly seem overwhelming, especially when even simple tasks like walking come with a hint of pain. Or, you are already too dependent on medicines to deal with an array of issues that you may have developed over time.

    Health experts, however, say that it is never too late to start exercising – even if you have heart-related issues or joint-related issues. The only thing to keep in mind is to consult a doctor, have an experienced trainer, and take it slow.

    It is not about hitting the gym and lifting weights. For many, the road to fitness starts with just a few minutes of walk.

    People in 50s, 60s, 70s can and should work out

    According to Dr P Venkata Krishnan, senior consultant, internal medicine, Artemis Hospital, Gurugram, people in their 50s, 60s, and 70s can and should start exercising.

    “There is nothing wrong with starting a fitness routine later in life. While it’s true that the body may respond differently to exercise as it ages, the human body is quite adaptable and can experience significant improvements in strength, flexibility and cardiovascular health with regular physical activity. Furthermore, engaging in exercise later in life can also help in mitigating age-related problems, improving mobility, cognitive function and emotional well-being,” he says.

    “Go for a walk or spend some time on a stationary cycle at home,” suggests Dr Mannu Bhatia, senior consultant, orthopaedics, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, New Delhi.

    “A type of workout is very important for old people. Just make sure you don’t overdo it. Be gradual and slow, and know your capacity. Exercising increases muscle blood supply and strengthens your bones,” Dr Bhatia adds.

    The orthopaedist emphasises eating a nutritious diet, and combating the sedentary lifestyle that eventually leads to health problems.

    Elderly people could also consider performing yoga to get fit.

    “Yoga accommodates everyone. There is no age bar. People can definitely start their yoga journey in their 50s and 60s and later. They must start with ‘sukshma vyayama’ which is known as subtle exercises in common language,” says Ruchika Saluja, a yoga instructor and nutritionist.

    Yoga can be a great way to start with. (Photo: Pexels)

    “People should focus on developing mobility in their joints by doing gentle asanas. It would help them avoid frequent falls that occur due to old age, hence prevent possible injuries,” she adds.

    Weight training

    Apart from cardio exercises, strength training is equally important for the elderly.

    Shivohaam, a celebrity fitness coach who has worked with Amitabh Bachchan, Ranbir Kapoor and Jacqueline Fernandez, wants to break the myth that weight training is not for older people.

    Many people have had the luxury of exercising and getting into weight training while they were young. They carry it forward into old age. But, just because you didn’t do it earlier, doesn’t mean you can never start,” says Shivohaam.

    “The only difficulty that happens when you start late is that your body is not used to that kind of movement or stress. It won’t progress as fast as you would like to. But, even training with basic resistance bands, or training with a machine (a machine gives you support and is beneficial for beginners who don’t have much control over body movement), or using light dumbbells will initially help. Start with little weight,” he suggests.

    Shivohaam adds that having a trainer is non-negotiable. You need someone to correct the form and posture. It will ensure you don’t get injured. “As you are above a certain age, the risk of injury is higher. So, don’t exercise without a trainer,” he asserts.

    Start with light weights. (Photo: Pexels)

    “Even 20 minutes of training with weights, maybe 2-3 times a week for senior citizens, is enough to bring about a positive change,” he adds.

    “And focus a little more on movement. You can walk or use a recumbent cycle, combined with a little bit of stretching will help senior citizens,” the expert shares. But all of it under expert guidance.

    Have health issues?

    Whether you are diabetic, have a heart-related problem or pain in your joints, you can consult your doctor and start with a fitness routine that will help manage these issues.

    Speaking to a doctor is a must.

    Orthopaedists say that exercising can be beneficial for people suffering from joint-related issues as it can help alleviate symptoms and promote mobility.

    Dr Vineet Bhatia, director, cardiac sciences, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Patparganj in Delhi, also says that a person dealing with a heart issue should see a cardiologist as well as a physician first, and train under the supervision of an expert who has medical knowledge.

    “Combining aerobic exercise, which includes walking, jogging and swimming, with some form of resistance training that is moderate weight-lifting is beneficial for preventing and managing heart disease. But you should not embark on such a journey yourself. Keep in loop the doctors and a trainer,” he adds.

    A good balanced diet and being aware of the medicines you are taking are also important.

    “Exercise is beneficial in the long term, provided it is done in a logical manner, and the exercise tolerance is gradually built up,” he says.

    Speaking about the cardiac episodes people suffer after working out, he said that they are most common in the first hour after exercise. “But it is more seen in people who don’t exercise frequently. If you do it regularly and gradually, chances are less,” he adds.

    Dr Suman Bhandari, consultant-interventional cardiology, Fortis Escorts Okhla, New Delhi, emphasises heart patients to undergo tests like ECG, ECHO routine blood test including for diabetes, kidneys (urea, creatinine) and later a stress ECG (TMT) while embarking on their fitness journey.

    In a nutshell

    • Yes, you can start working out no matter how old you are.
    • Always see a doctor before starting an exercise routine.
    • Train under the supervision of an experienced coach with medical knowledge.
    • Know that exercising can help you live a better life. While some diseases can’t be reversed, they can be managed and controlled by working out.
    • Strenuous exercises are a strict no.
    • Listen to your body, and don’t be harsh on yourself.
    • Gradually build exercise tolerance.
    • Even going on a walk is a way of working out. Just start with it.
    • Follow a balanced diet.

    To answer the question we started with, it is never too late to start working out.

    Published By:

    Medha Chawla

    Published On:

    Mar 1, 2024

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