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How to Stay Fit As You Age

SOLE-F80-heart-rate-monitorThere are a certain things that happen to all human beings as we age. One of them is that our bodies deteriorate as they age, just like everything else. You don’t have to take it sitting down, don’t accept that you are going to get to a place where you can’t do the things you enjoy and are stuck sitting around for years. There are proven things that you can do to significantly improve the quality of your life as you age.

There have been numerous studies done, several are outlined on Web MD, that show that one of the major things you can do to slow the process is to exercise. Not just walking for cardio, but strength training with weights will also help to make a major difference in your health and state of mind. You don’t have to spend hours in the gym and work out like a bodybuilder to enjoy the huge benefits from lifting weights and strength training.

You don’t need to spend lots of money on the equipment to do the workouts either. The best equipment for a home weight training workout are dumbbells and, or exercise bands. Dumbbells cost in the area of $.50 to $1 per pound, and they never wear out. Resistance bands are generally a little less expensive, but they do wear out. Use heavy enough weights that will make the exercises a bit of a challenge, you want the final rep of the set to be a bit of a struggle, but don’t overdo it by going too heavy.

You should do both types of exercise, cardio, such as walking, jogging, biking, etc. Whatever you can do that is enjoyable for you. Many seniors do walk, and that is great for your health, just don’t leave out the weight training, which will give you just as many or more benefits to your health as cardio.

The great thing is that no matter what your physical condition, you can do some weight training that will give you benefits you will quickly notice. The benefits of exercise as you age are numerous. Studies show that the average person loses 10 – 20% of their muscle mass by the age of 50. After age 50 sedentary people can lose another 40% of their muscle by their 70’s. Loss of muscle is directly related to loss of strength in your whole body. Loss of strength makes everything you do more difficult. You don’t have to be average if you don’t want to.

Studies also show that long term cardio and weight trainers at age 80, can have the same muscle mass and strength as a 50 year old person who is sedentary.

Some of the benefits of more muscle and strength.

  1. Arthritis relief, Stronger muscles ease the strain on your joints.
  2. Better balance, Less chance of falling and getting injured from a fall.
  3. Stronger bones, Weight training will increase the strength of your bones lessening breakage.
  4. Weight control, exercise will help keep off the fat, when combined with a good diet.
  5. Help you avoid diabetes.
  6. Help you sleep better.
  7. Have a better overall state of mind.
  8. A recently completed study at the University of British Columbia showed that weight training helped the test group increase their brain function over the group that did no weight training.

There is plenty of evidence to show it’s a very good idea to do cardio and strength training as you age to improve your life. So what should you do?

In the Twin Cities, we are very lucky to have numerous walking and biking trails to get your cardio exercise in. Do your cardio 3 or 4 times a week, whichever type of cardio you like, do it for 30 to 60 minutes each session. If you can’t do that much, slowly work up to it. Remember that any exercise you do will help make you stronger so next time you can do a little more.

The weight training part of your exercise should consist of compound movements that will work on more than one muscle groups at a time, and cover all the muscles of your upper and lower body. Work into all of these exercises slowly so you don’t injure yourself.

Do all exercises 2 or 3 times per week with a rest day between.

The goal is to do 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps with a rest of 1 minute between sets.

  1. Push Ups, Start on your knees if you need to. Go slow and work all the upper body muscles.
  2. Squats, Stand with feet shoulder width, toes turned slightly out. Body weight only to start.
  3. Biceps curl to overhead press. Go slow and always stay in control of weight.
  4. Behind head triceps extensions.
  5. Bent over rows.
  6. Abs crunch.
  7. Step up on bench or stool. Have a chair next to you for keeping your balance.
  8. Standing twist with weight. Go slow and suck in your abs as you do it.
  9. Bench press

Do these 9 exercises 2 or 3 days per week, or split them into 2 groups if needed when you start. As you get stronger, add exercises and increase the weight to get to the goal. After a few weeks, you will be amazed at the progress you’ve made. You can increase muscle and strength at any time in your life, it’s never too late, and you’re never too old, so give it a try, just go slowly and work your way up to more weight.

Paul Hickman