Modify Your Exercise Plan With Age

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Creating Optimum Health, for your Body and Soul. Following are the three rules that you should keep in mind as you exercise and grow in age.

Add Variety and Intensity

The amount of exercise that you need shouldn’t change over time, but its intensity and type should vary.  Throughout life, get aerobic activity at least five days a week for 30 to 45 minutes, strength training two or three times a week, and flexibility and balance training several times a week.  A mistake I often see is that people don’t modify their exercise routine as they age and end up getting hurt.  Joints, especially knees are often abused.  It’s better to balance harder workouts with sessions that are gentler on joints and to work different muscle groups for ample recovery time.  Or switch to walking, cycling, or swimming at midlife instead of sticking with kickboxing, running, or other strenuous activities.

Stay Flexible and Steady

Across all age groups, most people don’t spend enough time on flexibility and balance training.  Yet, these activities help make movements easier and can also be important in preventing falls later in life.  As you age, your tendons (the tissues connection muscle to bone) begin to shorten and tighten, gradually restricting flexibility.  Age-related loss of balance has been linked to the death of nerves in the cerebellum, the brain’s command center for movement.  Exercise activates these nerves, which scientists believe keeps them going.  Yoga and Pilates are popular ways to improve balance and loosen tight muscles.  These approaches stretch and strengthen core muscles deep in the midsection that support the spine, affect posture, and might contribute to back pain when they’re out of shape.  And they add a mind-body dimension to your workout:  You’ll become more connected to your body and its movements while you’re learning breathing techniques to help relax all day long.  This is also true for tai chi, which is good for maintaining balance.

Preserve Bone and Muscle

To avoid loss of bone mineral density, which can put you at greater risk of fractures and disability later in life, you need to build up enough bone mass early on.  You can maintain bone through strength training, with either free weights or resistance machines, and weight-bearing exercises (exercising against gravity) such as walking, tennis, and hiking for the hips and spine.  (Maximum bone mass is reached around age 35 and may decline rapidly in women after menopause.)  Strength training also helps prevent the muscle loss and fat gain commonly seen with aging. 

 At Any Age, Learn to Listen to Your Body and Respect its Wisdom

If your knees hurt from running, swim or ride the stationary bike instead.  Exercise should be a lifelong process of experimentation:  Try balloon dancing, water aerobics, or snowshoeing.  With care, you can enjoy fun activities that support your changing fitness needs and interests throughout life.


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