It should be no surprise that as you age, your workout routine and abilities change. What was easy in your 20s might be more difficult in your 40s and downright impossible in your 60s. And this can apply to everything from memory to movement capabilities.
I’ve seen it several times – people injuring themselves during their workout because they are doing the wrong exercises or doing the right exercises incorrectly. And yes, this can happen at any age, but it becomes a bigger stumbling block in older people.
There are many reasons for this to occur, but one of the main ones is that the body heals itself differently as age advances. There are other factors in play that could also exacerbate an injury. And what does all of this mean?
In my terms, it means that you should be adapting your workout routine so that it is most effective for your body’s age. Now, I know the saying that “age is a state of mind,” and that may be true. And there are several stories out there about octogenarians running marathons or participating in other strenuous competitions.
I’m certainly not saying that you need to change your workout routine entirely as you get older. If you have found something that you love and it works for you, that’s great! You can continue to embrace it and enjoy the activity for as long as you can.
However, you should also be aware of changes that are occurring which could have a negative impact on your health. As always, you should always consult with your doctor before starting or changing an exercise routine.
But from 60 on up, there are at least four things you need to consider when establishing a workout routine: Strength, mobility/flexibility, and impact. Let’s start with the last one.
Osteoporosis and arthritis. They practically go hand in hand and are one of the biggest challenges a person can face when trying to establish an effective workout routine. They are also among the most notable and easily recognizable changes.
Osteoporosis is basically a loss of bone mass and arthritis is joint inflammation. It’s easy to see where one could affect the other. Separately, they each can cause pain when participating in high-impact activities like running. Together, they can actually cause serious injury.
To lessen the wear and tear on your joints, consider adapting to more low-impact options. If you are used to running, try light jogging. Do so on softer ground, not hard pavement. And make sure you have shoes that give you the proper support.
Try water aerobics. They are definitely low impact, and the water offers natural resistance which can build strength. Plus, you’ll be naturally cooling in the pool even as you work up a sweat. Honestly, some of those water aerobics instructors are tough!
Mobility becomes more of a challenge as we age. We don’t move as fast, and it can take longer to complete even simple tasks. It’s a rare person who can continue to keep pace in an aerobics class that contains many direction changes and fast steps.
Along with this, you may find that you’re not as flexible as you used to be. Muscles are tighter, you can’t bend over as far as you used to be able to, and you feel cramped up or in pain if you are in one position for too long.
At any age, stretching prior to exercise is vital. You need to warm up your muscles and get your body loose before stressing it out. As you get older, you may find that stretching can actually become a workout by itself.
Chair yoga and pilates are both great ways to maintain and encourage flexibility without putting extra strain on joints or other areas of the body that may be weaker. Water aerobics is applicable here too, as your range of motion can improve with the water’s natural resistance.
In a nutshell, everything can get weaker as we age. That’s not to say that you become a weakling or can’t do anything. It’s just a fact that a once strong grip (for example) gets weaker with age, or legs that used to be able to tap dance now have trouble carrying you up a flight of stairs.
Muscles need to be worked to be kept in shape. But you may not be able to use weights in the same manner that you are used to for the reasons listed immediately above. The last thing you want is to strain or tear a muscle. Fortunately, there are alternatives.
Resistance bands are a low-cost/low-maintenance alternative to weights. You can still get some of the same benefits and even do the same exercises. But the resistance bands utilize your own weight and strength instead of adding to it like free weights do.
There are several other activities to consider, such as walking, tai chi, bicycling (stationary or regular), and others. But as with the ones I suggested above, you should always be aware of your strength and mobility/flexibility limitations, as well as the impact on your joints.
Keeping those in mind and choosing exercises that limit stress on and in those areas, you should be able to still put together an effective workout.
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