Decades of Exercise

How to work up a sweat at every stage of life

By P. J. Ellison

Evolving as we age is what life's all about. So it makes sense to modify your exercise regimen as your body changes over time.

One constant for you and your family, which is presumably made up of several age groups, is a focus on cardio, strength, and coordination. These three attributes remain important at every stage of life. As long as you understand the risks and benefits and consult a physician before taking on any new regimen, you're good to go.

Try everything. Rate of recovery and ability to heal are optimized now. Rock climbing, rugby, and running 20 kilometres at a time? Go for it. At this stage, you can handle just about anything. At this age, your body and mind are both extremely adaptable, so it's a great time to explore and learn new physical skills.

The biggest challenge now is to find time to get a good sweat on, what with career and family firing on all cylinders. Unfortunately, your biological clock is not cooperating. Getting fit and staying there is tougher than it was a decade ago.

According to a John Hopkins study, an adult can lose up to 50 per cent of their muscle mass by the age of 30. "Work out now and you can be even more fit than you were in your 20s," says Ken Stockton, a lifelong triathlete and personal trainer in his 50s. "Maintain that exercise program and you might even see improvements in your level of fitness up to and past the age of 39."

Battle your expanding waistline and a mid-life crisis with regular exercise. The first signs of arthritis might make an appearance, but whatever your exercising pleasure is, expect your performance to level out and recovery to take longer. It's okay. It's normal.

No. You're not old. Your best days are NOT behind you. "People tend to slow down at 50," said endurance coach Joe Friel in an interview with the CBC. "People in their 20s tend to embrace high-intensity exercise while 50-somethings usually pursue less taxing activities," says the author of Fast After 50.

While tai chi and a Sunday stroll have their place, you shouldn’t abandon the intensity of a good, long sweat two or three times a week, whether via weight-training, cycling, jogging or all three. Pre-menopausal women need to keep an eye on their bone density at this stage.

One constant now is stiffer joints. Flood joints with oxygenated blood by working mobility into your daily routine. Start every day with 10 minutes of slow, steady, full-body stretching. Balance exercises are as important as strength and endurance when you're over 60.

There's no reason you can't continue to strength train, do cardio, stretch, hike, and even pursue higher-impact activities, says Mr. Stockton. "I have a handful of clients in their 70s, and as long as we take our time, and monitor their response to each activity, we're golden."


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