Exercise is among the best ways to improve your health and quality of life, especially as you get older. Staying active can help avoid many age-related limitations, such as difficulty climbing stairs, walking long distances or reaching overhead to change a lightbulb.
The key to keeping fit as you age, says Eric Makhni, M.D., Sports Medicine Specialist at Henry Ford Health, is viewing exercise as a lifelong pursuit and tailoring activities to your specific needs, no matter how old you are.
Activities for Every Age
Exercise recommendations are tied to your age and fitness level. So a 50-year-old triathlete will have a different exercise regimen than a 50-year-old who has been sedentary for decades.
No matter how gracefully you age, your body will inevitably undergo changes that require modifying your approach to exercise. Here, Dr. Makhni shares what to expect— and what to do — as you exercise throughout your life.
Teens and 20s
What to expect: Your teens and 20s are a great time to explore different types of exercise. You have more energy — and suffer from fewer injuries — than you ever will again. If you do get hurt, you’ll recover more quickly.
What to do: Switch things up. When teen athletes play one sport year-round, they run the risk of developing an overuse injury. At the same time, they neglect other joints and muscles. Baseball players, for example, develop their arm muscles at the expense of their core and back muscles. Studies show that athletes who rotate through three sports in a year — say baseball, soccer and water polo — have lower rates of injury than single-sport athletes.
30s and 40s
What to expect: You may be busy building a career, a family or both. Life tends to get more complicated and fitness can fall off the radar. You may find you have to squeeze fitness into your day. And your body has a tougher time hanging on to lean body mass after you hit 40.
What to do: Try to get a mix of activity, including strength training, cardiovascular activities and stretching/flexibility work. Strength training is especially important after 40 because it builds muscle mass and keeps your metabolism humming. Just three 10-minute bursts of activity a day offer tremendous health benefits. Consider adding yoga, Pilates and stretching exercises to preserve and enhance your range of motion.
50s and 60s
What to expect: You might notice yourself slowing down during your 50s. Your cardiovascular fitness levels off, bone density declines and you may begin to experience joint pain, tendon ruptures and other injuries.
What to do: Now is the time to add intensity. Challenging yourself is key during these decades to maintain fitness. Try high-intensity interval training (HIIT), spinning, rowing or other high-intensity activities to stay at the top of your game – safely, of course.
70s and beyond
What to expect: Your joints will probably become stiffer and you might feel less steady on your feet as you navigate these decades. You could find yourself unable to perform your usual activities and become frustrated when your body doesn’t cooperate.
What to do: Any kind of movement will help nourish your joints and improve circulation. Balance exercises, strength training and stretching are especially important. Consider taking up swimming, yoga, qigong or Tai chi. The goal is to be gentle on your body while still pushing it to reach capacity.
Stay on Top of Your Game
Exercise recommendations are always evolving. That’s why it’s critical to work with your primary care provider, sports medicine doctor or physical therapist to understand how the guidelines apply to you. Be proactive. Find a safe way to exercise and be mindful of diet and nutrition and you can feel great into your golden years.
Visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936) to schedule an appointment with a doctor or one of our physical trainers.
Dr. Eric Makhni is a sports medicine orthopedic specialist seeing patients at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital and Henry Ford Medical Center – Troy.