There are few things more intimidating than turning up to a gym, especially if you’ve never had experience training in one. How do those machines work? And why is everyone 25 years old and buff?

There are, however, plenty of reasons to maintain fitness levels as we get older. “There are obvious reasons, such as controlling weight gain, which can roll into things like high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure,” says physiotherapist Jacinda Cheong.

“There are also studies that show physical activity can help to reduce the chances of dementia and Alzheimer’s, and some types of cancer.

“It’s also really important for bone density. Plus, improving your physical capacity helps with balance, which can reduce falls.”

Adults should aim for 30 minutes of physical activity – the sort where you’re breathing heavily, but can still hold a conversation – most days of the week. Here are five ways to improve fitness without joining the gym, so you can look forward to good health for years to come.

Step it up
You’ll have heard it before, and that’s because it’s true. Walking, especially for those who’ve spent more time on the couch than with running shoes on, is the perfect way to get back on the fitness wagon.

“Once you’re feeling more confident you should include some resistance exercise twice a week to target the major muscle groups,” says Jacinda. “You can use body-weight exercises, TheraBands, some small weights or even the shopping when you’re carrying it home.”

Discover a great love
The one way to ensure you make exercise a regular event is to do something you love. Yoga, pilates, tai chi, dancing and anything else that gets you moving, laughing and having fun is perfect. “There’s also research that suggests anything that requires a bit of coordination is good for mental health,” says Jacinda.

Download an app or find a local class or event, such as No Lights No Lycra, where everyone dances in the dark for an hour.

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Find a type of exercise that you love to help with motivation (Image: Natursports / Shutterstock)

Get a dog
A dog is your very own cheerleader, encouraging you to get out of bed each morning for a walk. Consistency is key to getting fit, so you’re already off to a great start. Walk in the park, throw a ball and incorporate short jogs to get you and Rover moving more.

Try online
There are plenty of fitness options available on your smartphone or computer. Some, like the 5 Minute Home Workouts app, are free. Others provide exercise routines, healthy menus and support via closed Facebook groups.

One of those is 28 by Sam Wood. “The biggest reason people don’t exercise is time,” says personal trainer and program founder Sam Wood. “You can do this program in your daggiest pyjamas in your lounge room in 28 minutes.”

Beginners start at the Rookie level – working for 20 seconds then resting for 40 seconds – and progress from there. “We had a woman called Linda, who is 53, sign up in February 2016,” says Sam. “By her own admission she was morbidly obese. She’s just lost 55 kilos and didn’t leave her lounge room to do it.”

Invite your friends
Making a commitment to a mate is a sure-fire way to stick to an exercise program. If there are a few of you, look at splitting the cost of a personal trainer. A group of Melbourne women did that to form the Boilers Boxing Club.

Jen Huntley had tried a mixed martial arts class with her husband’s friend, Greg ‘Clanger’ Kleynjans, and asked him if he’d coach a bunch of women. “He agreed, but I had to get 10 people, so I did a recruitment campaign on Facebook,” Jen explains. “Quite a lot of people were interested because it wasn’t at a gym. It also sounded like a bit of fun.” The group, whose average age is “somewhere between 45 and 50”, has now been meeting up once a week for two years.

Do you do regular exercise? What works for you? 

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