I’ve taken up karate and rollerskating – aged 68!

Who says you cannot take up a new sport when you are over 60? Keeping fit is important for your health whatever your age as Emma Harrowing found out when she talked to the 68-year-old who has just taken up karate and roller skating.

There was a method to what some might think of as madness when 68-year-old Graham Newton donned his martial arts suit and went to his first karate lesson. Far from being deemed as 'over the hill' or a pensioner who sits at home and reminisces about all the activities they used to do when they were younger and more agile, Graham is determined to prove that just because you are over 60 you can still take part in sports.

'Regular exercise improves your flexibility, strength, agility, coordination and balance, as well as being an excellent stress buster, so why wouldn't you want to remain active in later life,' says Graham.

'Keeping active also boosts your confidence. Retiring from work can completely change your lifestyle and sometimes it can be difficult to find a focus in your life. Joining a fitness class or taking up and sport can really refocus your mind and give you the energy to make the most of your retirement.'

Making sure you exercise regularly and keep an eye on what you eat is important whatever your age. Even making simple changes to your daily routine can be beneficial and you don't have to take up a sport. Everyday tasks such as cleaning the house, walking the dog or taking up gardening can help get your heart rate pumping faster than usual, which is the key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Keeping active throughout your life can have many benefits such as reducing the risk of developing a life-threatening disease, helping to maintain or reach a healthy weight, improving sleep, increasing energy levels, improving your physical and mental wellbeing, and it can help you live longer.

According to NHS Choices, if you stay physically active you are likely to stay independent for longer as you feel more confident and are involved in life. At least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on five or more days a week is all you need to start feeling the benefits.

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If you need motivation there are many exercise classes in Norwich tailored for the over-50s. Fitness In Later Life classes at the Sportspark offers you the chance to take up an aerobics class, try out badminton or play a team sport such as cricket, and gyms such as Greens Health and Fitness or Fitness Express at Park Farm Hotel offer tailored fitness programs so that you can have a fitness workout specifically designed for you.

Graham joined the Eastern Shotokan Karate Association in Norwich and attends a karate class near his home in North Walsham once or twice a week. After just seven weeks he feels fitter and is a lot more flexible than he used to be.

Says Graham: 'I suffer from mild arthritis and so my joints can often feel stiff and painful, however karate has really helped with my condition and my joints are starting to feel supple. Martial arts are also about improving emotional wellbeing and I certainly feel like I have more self-discipline and I am more confident as a result.'

After being self-employed for most of his working life, Graham is used to motivating himself and this has held him in good stead when it comes to keeping active now that he is heading towards his 69th birthday.

Martial arts is just one way Graham is keeping himself in tip-top condition – he also goes roller skating once a week in Norwich with his ten-year-old son. In fact it's a sporting Sunday for Graham as he goes to his karate lesson in the morning and just after lunch he puts on his skates for an hour on the rink.

'My ten-year-old son was the one who got me into karate and roller skating,' says Graham. 'Many people ask me if I can actually keep upright when roller skating, but it's just like riding a bike – it's something that you never forget. All I do is make sure that I get my balance and then I'm away!

'I'm not as light on my feet as I used to be and I do find that it is harder to keep up in lessons and on the skating rink, but this doesn't mean that I cannot exercise.

'The more I do, the more I find I can do.

'If you think that just because you are older you cannot do the things you used to do, think again. I'm living proof that you can do anything no matter what it is whatever your age and ability. It's never too late to start exercising.'