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Smart exercise tips for people of all ages

You may not be as spry as you once were, but if there’s one secret to staying young and active as you age, it’s exercise. Daily exercise can help prevent age-related health issues such as weight gain, heart disease, diabetes and even stress.

There is a catch, however. The exercises you did in your 20s may not be as smart, safe or effective as they once were. The exercise habits you had as a young adult can cause joint and muscle damage as you age. 

So what exercises should you be doing at your age? Here’s a quick look at how you can stay fit through the years.

Exercise in your 30s

30 may be the new 20, but that doesn’t mean time has any less of an effect on your body. In your 30s, metabolism and muscle mass begin to slowly decline and body fat increases.

To stay fit in your 30s, you’ll have to work harder than you did in your 20s. Try completing 60 minutes of circuit training (including both cardio and resistance) four times per week. Add in at least one session of 45 to 60 minutes of high-intensity cardio and a day of rest each week. 

Exercise in your 40s

Change your exercise routine up to include more weight/resistance training (about an hour three days a week), plus 30 to 45 minutes of cardio five days a week with one day of rest. If you’re new to weight training, meet with a professional fitness trainer who can teach you the right exercises for your body and correct form so you don’t get hurt.

If you haven’t been consistent about exercise until now, don’t assume you can hit the pavement too hard right away. Choose lower-impact cardio exercises such as swimming, biking, walking or rowing.

Exercise in your 50s

Start thinking of ways you can add more activity into your daily life to combat the effects of age. It’s time to start being a little kinder to your joints, but spending more time on the couch won’t do you any favors. Shoot for four to six cardio sessions a week with at least 60 minutes of resistance training each week.

Be sure you’re taking the time to warm up prior to exercise, as working cold muscles increases your chance of injury. Classes like yoga, tai chi and dance can help you maintain flexibility and balance, both of which tend to decline with age.

Exercise in your 60s and beyond

Exercise is just as important in your 60s as it is in earlier decades, but arthritis, bad knees or back problems are more common once you hit 60.

Challenge yourself with exercise, but don’t exhaust yourself. Stick to three days a week of moderately intense cardio and three days of weight training using light weights and slow, controlled movements. Balance and stretching exercises are also a must in your 60s.

Exercise recommendations for all ages

The American Heart Association recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise weekly. “Moderately intense” means increasing your heart rate to 50 to 70 percent of its maximum rate (approximately 220 minus your age).

The length of each exercise session is less important, so feel free to break your exercise into two or three 10 to 15-minute sessions, five days a week, rather than 30 minutes to an hour of exercise all at once. If you want to slow the effects age has on your body, the most important thing is to just keep moving. 

About Vivek Kushwaha

Vivek P. Kushwaha attended the University of Texas at Austin where he earned his B.A. from the College of Natural Sciences. He then earned his medical degree from the University of Texas Medical School at San Antonio, Texas.

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