Tanya Rouble, ACE-CPT
No matter what your age, it's never too late to exercise
No matter what your age, it's never too late to exercise. Whether you're 22 or 82, once you start moving, you will be amazed at what you are capable of and how easily your body will begin to reap the many benefits.
With each decade of life, our need for exercise will vary. By knowing what to expect of our bodies as we age, we are more equipped to decide what our focus will be for our exercise regime.
Age: 20 to 40
This is the time to set a lifelong pattern of regular exercise and active living. By doing this you are setting your body up for success in the later decades. A well-rounded exercise program that incorporates cardiovascular (walking, running, cycling, swimming), muscular strength and endurance (moving your muscles against a resistance such as weights, rubber tubing or your own body weight) and stretching activities will carry you a long way. Make exercise a part of your daily life by setting aside time to engage in activities you enjoy. Move as often as possible by walking instead of driving, taking the stairs rather than the elevator, or any other ways you can find to sneak some movement into your day.
40 to 60
Weight-bearing activities are essential during these years to help minimize bone loss and decrease chances of developing osteoporosis.
Weight-bearing activities such as walking, running, dancing and racquet sports require you to support your entire body weight. Try to engage in weight-bearing activities that are also cardiovascular in nature (last longer than a few minutes), as these are known to decrease your risk of developing heart disease. Cardiovascular exercise will also help to increase your metabolism, in turn helping to battle your body's attempts to pack on the pounds.
Weight training keeps your muscles and bones strong and helps to maintain co-ordination and balance. The result: a lower risk of injury and falls. Weight training also helps to boost your metabolism, since the more muscle you have the higher your resting metabolism will be.
Also focus on flexibility exercises. Aging will naturally encourage your body to "stiffen up." This can affect your posture and ability to perform everyday activities, as well as limit your freedom of movement. By engaging in stretching activities you will maintain or improve the range of motion around your joints. This means your body will move more freely and allow you to complete tasks of daily living without much thought or effort.
A good reason for exercising later in life is to maintain the ability to live independently and to reduce your risk of falling and sustaining a fracture. Focus on weight-bearing activities in order to maintain bone strength. These activities will also help with balance and co-ordination, and keep endurance levels up (if the activity chosen is cardiovascular in nature). Moving your muscles against resistance, such as hand weights, improves strength, co-ordination and balance. All-over strength will also increase your chances of protecting or catching yourself if you do happen to take a tumble. Flexibility activities remain important because joints that are more flexible will move more easily. This means that you will be able to walk, reach and bend with greater ease. Looking behind you when you are pulling out of a parking space will be easier, sitting up tall in a chair will come naturally and picking up a dropped object from the floor will not be a huge endeavour.
Remember, growing older is a natural process but as long as you keep moving and participating in exercise you enjoy, you don't have to feel old. If you work at your own level and don't push yourself to exhaustion, exercise will reward you with a more youthful mind and body as well as an abundance of energy and a positive attitude as you move through the ages.