Body & Fitness

Are you exercising enough for your age?

Here’s the best way to work out for your age.

We’re all tuned in to the fact that we need to exercise more, but what’s right for you may depend on what life stage you’re at.

If you’ve always been physically active, that’s great, but if you’ve never been an exercise fan, it’s never too late to start, whatever your age. The health-promoting, feel good effects make any effort worth it.

In your 20s & 30s

Your exercise priority is…

Kick-start your resistance training to gain vital stress-busting strength and endurance, keep your metabolism revved up with weight-bearing exercise, and use a pedometer to record exactly how physically active you are.

Stop standing on your feet, start moving

We lead busy lives – running a home, a family, a social life – yet sometimes we think we’re more active than we are. Measure the steps you take daily with a pedometer and build up to 10,000 steps a day, the recommended number to benefit health and protect against hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.

Why you need to do it

From the age of 25, our aerobic capacity decreases by one to two per cent a year, so our heart and lungs have to work harder. In their 30s, women lose 150-175g of muscle mass a year and can gain as much, if not more, fat mass. A pound of fat takes up more space than a pound of muscle, so even if the scales say you are the same weight as you were in your 20s, chances are you may have gone up a size. If you’re not doing any weight-bearing activity by 39, you could have lost 1.8kg of muscle mass and replaced it with body fat, thus slowing your metabolism and gaining weight.

Keep your metabolism revved up

With weight-bearing activities that enhance your muscle mass. Save time by increasing your cardio exercise benefits with lifestyle activities, such as stair climbing and brisk walking.

Stop beating yourself up

If you are not able to find 60 spare minutes all in one go. Adopt a ‘workout wedge’ approach to exercise, slotting it into convenient blocks of time. Studies show that even with bouts of 10 minutes, benefits are still achieved.

Don’t kid yourself into thinking you are physically active

Your activity levels may be more related to how busy your brain is (with all those commitments), which doesn’t translate into physical exercise.

In your 40s

Your exercise priority is…

Stop middle-age spread and practise good habits now. Schedule some sort of regular exercise or physical activity into your routine to be achieved before noon most days.

Get into the regular exercise habit

Studies show people who do physical exercise in the morning are 75 per cent more likely to still be exercising after 12 months than those who plan to do it in the evening.

Why you need to do it

In your 40s, you’re more likely to have health concerns, such as excess blood fat, high blood pressure and increased insulin resistance. Different waist measurements for men and women indicate their risk of disease: for men, risk increases when their waist is greater than 102cm (40in), and for women, 88cm (35in). During perimenopause, many women experience mood swings, memory loss, cholesterol changes, hot flushes and sleep disturbance. Oestrogen levels become erratic and the storage site for fat shifts to your abdomen. Stress increases the production of the stress hormone cortisol, which if left unchecked, encourages more fat to gather around the midriff.

Do some brisk walking

For 30 minutes every day; aim to do this in one bout or two bouts of 15 minutes. To increase motivation, seek out lovely natural spaces to walk in such as the beach or bush.

Find your ‘break point’ walking pace

This is your optimum walking pace to gain health and bone density benefits.

Add a stress-reducing activity

Such as yoga. Choose flowing weightbearing yoga styles, such as vinyasa or ashtanga, to gain upper-body benefits.

Swap swimming

This excellent cardio exercise doesn’t enhance bone density, so think about swapping it for brisk walking or 20 minutes in the gym twice a week, targeting abdomen, thighs, chest, back and arms.

Don’t diet

Invest in a healthy eating plan instead. This will help maintain your energy levels.

In your 50s

Your exercise priority is…

Tackle the seriousness of bone-mass reduction or osteoporosis by doing daily physical activity.

Learn to work out throughout the day

Instead of trying to find great blocks of time, try to make the hours outside the time you traditionally set aside for exercise as active as possible. By learning to navigate each 24 hours, you can quite easily accumulate more physical activity in seven days than going to the gym three times a week.

Why you need to do it

In your 50s, your body’s biggest physical changes evolve around the time of menopause. After menopause, women lose around 66 per cent of oestrogen and 50 to 60 percent of testosterone. Oestrogen tends to decline at a faster rate than testosterone, which in most cases encourages body fat to be redistributed from the hips to the mid-section, causing blood pressure and cholesterol levels to rise. These changes can increase cardiovascular risk. Many of the normal effects of ageing, such as slower reaction times and reduced muscle mass, strength, endurance, bone mass and density are also compounded by a couch-potato lifestyle. The sooner you commit to being physically active every day, the quicker you will reap the benefits.

Do increase your impact

With cardiovascular exercise, it’s important to maximise the ‘ground reaction’ forces to boost bone density, so walking faster or jogging will give you better bone-building stimulus. Exercise involving skipping and jumping produces significant improvements in bone density.

Get into resistance training

Using weights, go through eight to 10 exercises of eight to 12 reps per set, a minimum of twice a week. For best results, and to ensure you gain staying power in your routine, gradually build intensity.

Include upper body exercises

To improve the bone density of wrists, and lower body exercises such as squats and lunges to strengthen the thigh bone. The force on the bone is more important than frequency, so aim to build up the intensity until you are working at 75 per cent of your maximum effort.

In your 60s

Your exercise priority is…

It’s time to focus on your flexibility, mobility and balance. You also need to boost your posture and stability. Get into the habit of using your leg muscles more. For example, don’t use momentum to push off from chairs and sofas; instead, use leg muscles to keep them strong and in great shape.

Use it or Lose it!

As we reach our 60s, we naturally lose muscle mass and strength and, quite simply, the less we use them, the quicker they’ll lose their ability to contract, extend and stretch. If you want to keep a great body, use it.

Why you need to do it

There is evidence that diseases and conditions such as strokes, osteoporosis and arthritis are preventable and that physical activity can play an important part. The decline in our levels of physical activity with age is not inevitable and contrasts with many South-east Asian countries, where daily group and activity routines, such as t’ai chi, are the cultural norm. T’ai chi combines slow movement with a calm, alert mental state, focusing on principles that foster natural postural alignments. It can improve blood pressure, balance, emotional health and promote a stronger immune system.

Keep moving

If you want to feel and look terrific, avoid too much inactivity. Doing nothing can lead to weak muscles and stiff joints, and it saps your energy and vitality.

Get together with friends

Build on the social aspect of your exercise. Seek out group exercise activities, such as walking groups and group classes in leisure centres.

Maintain a regular routine

Establish consistent patterns in terms of times, places and contacts and make your exercise routine become as much a regular part of your day as eating and sleeping.

It’s not just about exercise

Physical activity improves your looks and your shape as well as your emotional and physical wellbeing. So be proud of your body and get out and use it as much as you can – it really is never too late to start.

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