How to be fit at every life stage

No more excuses! It's time to make fitness happen no matter where you are in life.
Published 29 November 2018

Fit at every life stage


There’s no doubting the countless health benefits that come with physical activity – but finding time to squeeze it in can be challenging. But no matter your stage of life, making time for activity should be right up there at the top of your to-do list. Need some help? Here’s how to make it happen.


Stay-at-home mums

Upside - No demands from a boss; plenty of outdoor time; fun and love (it has to be said!).

Downside - Sleepless nights; endless snacking; low energy; no alone time.

The demands of caring for a new baby or running after a toddler can mean many parents simply run out of time and energy to take care of themselves. Preparing a healthy meal can be hard when you’re constantly feeding the troops and providing endless snacks. In fact, one study published in Paediatrics found mums with young children consumed an average of 1540 more kilojoules a day and had higher BMIs than women without children. Further research shows people who sleep for five or less hours a night are more likely to snack after dinner and gain more weight than people who punch out a full eight hours.

What to do - While there’s a limit to what you can do to make your baby sleep through every night, moving more during the day can help burn more kilojoules and, importantly, provide a much-needed energy boost.

Strength and stamina are must-haves for busy parents. If you’re lifting and carrying children, twisting in and out of the car, you need strength for your body and cardio fitness to boot! Pushing a pram is great exercise because as your child gets heavier you get fitter and it becomes more and more challenging. Using public exercise equipment at the park or tins of food at home is great for a gym-free strength workout.

The best bit is that stay-at-home mums rack up a large amount of incidental movement throughout the day. So capitalise on it! Take your kids to the playground during the day, or play active games with them like hide-and-seek or piggy-back rides. The kids will love it, your relationships will flourish and you'll get healthy doing it- win win!

Action plan - Your workout doesn’t need to be done in one continuous stretch. Write a list of exercises and stick it somewhere you’ll see it. As you find a few spare minutes do 10 of each exercise. A few sit-ups here and squats there – by the end of the day you’ll have done a whole body workout! Check out our upper body workout and mum and baby workout.


Part-time working mums

Upside - Flexibility; best of both worlds.

Downside - Constant juggle; feeling pulled in different directions; lack of consistent daily routine.

For the 36 per cent of Aussie mums and 55 per cent of New Zealand mums who juggle part-time work with caring for little ones, organisation is key to maintaining an activity routine – and your sanity. You need to think ahead to make time for activity because it’s not going to happen between work and school unless you plan for it.

What to do - ;When you’re missing alone time away from the office and the kids, going for a walk is one of the most underrated forms of exercise you can do. “Because of the rising popularity of high intensity interval training (HIIT) people think that if you walk at a slow pace it’s not doing anything for you,” says exercise physiologist Dr Bill Sukala. “But there are tons of benefits of getting out and having a walk around the neighbourhood.” Being in ‘green space’ is one of them. Fresh air does wonders for our health. Dr Sukala says making an appointment in your diary or phone for exercise will help that walking date become non-negotiable. “Scheduling activity is important so it’s not just a vague thing that’s easy to forget when you get distracted,” he says. “It’s a visual cue to take the time to get out and be active.”

Action plan - Get your calendar out and find three times this week when you can fit in a 30-minute walk. It might be early morning one day or after you drop the kids at school another day. Don’t underestimate your lunch break – a 30-minute walk can be just what you need on those days when you’re in the office. Check out our park workout and home workout.


Shift workers

Upside - Working shifts means some daylight hours to yourself; constantly changing hours means no chance of getting stuck in a dull routine.

Downside - Disrupted sleep and body clock; long days; difficult to plan ahead.

Shift workers who start work at night when the body is biologically prepared to sleep are prone to weight gain even when there’s no change in the amount of food they eat. We know – unfair. A recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests this is because the body burns less energy during a 24-hour period punctuated by odd working hours than it does when we work during normal business hours. This is because our natural tendency to wake when it’s light and sleep when it’s dark is disrupted.

What to do - Dr Sukala says developing your own routine of sleep, work, meals and exercise can help ease the effects of shift work. And thanks to 24-hour gyms, there’s no reason why you can’t work out in the middle of the night – especially when there’s no wait for the treadmill at 3am. Win! It’s about taking the time to listen to your own body cues, not what everyone else around you is doing. “If that’s when you’re awake and your body is used to it, there’s no reason you can’t exercise at odd hours,” says Dr Sukala. If your favourite gym class starts when you’re getting ready for bed at midday, look for a qualified and experienced personal trainer as it can be a flexible option. Added bonus: you may be able to negotiate cheaper daytime rates when most people are at work.

Action plan - Rethink your routine and ask yourself questions. Are you most alert before or after work? Are you going to bed early enough in the evening to wake up 30 minutes earlier and squeeze in a workout before you go, even if it’s 3am? Check out our body weight intro workout and gym workout or find out more about Shift work and weight loss.


Full-time workers

Upside - You know your hours; you’ve got a job!

Downside - You know your hours; you’ve got a job.

Having a full-time job can be very time consuming. It’s a good idea to try and factor in exercise during your commute – whether it’s walking part of the way to work or going to the gym on route, it’s about setting a-routine that fits into your work routine is solid.

What to do - Even if you manage to fit in one hour of exercise each day it doesn't mean you can sit or lie down for the other 23 hours. Increasingly, studies have suggested the correlation between too much time sitting and weight gain, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. According to research by the University of Sydney, Australians spend between eight and 12 hours a day sitting at work, on transport and in front of screens. “When you work in an office it’s important to do exercise at a designated time but it’s also important to make sure you’re using energy at all times of the day,” says Dr Sukala. “ That can involve frequent breaks or doing walk-and-talk meetings.”

Action plan - This week add more walking to your daily commute – you might get off the bus earlier or walk all the way if you can manage it. Plus, actively try to move more during the day – stand up when you take a phone call or conduct standing or walk-and-talk meetings with your colleagues. Check out our Tabata workout and office workout.


Fitness at different ages

Everyone’s activity routines will look at little different. Whether you’re a busy parent, a uni student or retiree here are some moves to suit every life stage.

This is the decade when you can be as extreme as you like. Try indoor rock climbing or stand-up paddle-boarding. If high intensity with a side of socialising is your thing try a group sport such as Ultimate Frisbee.

We’re often time-poor in our 30s thanks to a career that’s taking off and/or the arrival of children. This can mean exercise falls off your to-do list. Short high intensity workouts like HITT will help you get the most out of the time you have. Also consider incidental activity such as riding to work or parking further away from the station.

Try to include more resistance training in to your workout to help maintain muscle mass, bone density and slow the decrease in your metabolism. Aim for two strength-training workouts a week.

As you age your risk of heart disease – the single biggest killer of Australian and New Zealand women – increases. Regular physical activity, especially the kind that gets your heart rate up, such as walking or tennis, will help decrease your risk.

Be physically active every day by walking as much as possible, using the stairs and continuing to do household jobs like washing the car and vacuuming the house. The more you do, the better you’ll feel.