When it comes to physical fitness, “aging gracefully” doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have the moves of a ballerina (or moves like Jagger) in later life.
As we all know, the body has more and more limitations as it ages.
Still, the hurdles that come with exercising as you get older shouldn’t stop you from maintaining a healthy, satisfying workout routine.
If you have age-related barriers to fitness, don’t throw in the (sweat) towel just yet!
Below, trainers offer their top tips for adapting workouts to common problems that can arise later in life, from arthritis to osteoporosis to menopause.
Here’s how to adapt to continued physical activity, regardless of your age.
The benefits of exercise aren’t just for young people. In fact, you can experience even more pronounced benefits if you stay active as an older adult.
Research suggests that exercise protects against a host of chronic conditions, many of which are more common in older people. Among which:
cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, some cancers
Activities that focus on balance can reduce the risk of falls, and weight-bearing exercises can strengthen bones, reducing the impact of osteoporosis.
Brain health also gets a boost from time spent in the gym.
According to a 2020 narrative review, increasing levels of physical activity may not only help prevent Alzheimer’s disease but also improve outcomes for people who already have a diagnosis of the condition.
Meanwhile, the emotional benefits of solo and group exercise are well documented.
Studies have shown that staying active can reduce the risk of depression in older people and that exercising with others can increase feelings of social connection and mutual support.
How fitness needs change as we get older
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that all adults do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week, regardless of their age.
As you get more birthdays, you’ll find your focus shifts from high-intensity body sculpting or cardio to less-strenuous exercises that promote overall wellness and disease prevention.
Many experts recommend incorporating a mix of exercises, including:
However, if this seems daunting, remember that any amount of exercise is better than none at all.
“Even if you’re just walking for 15 to 30 minutes a day or lifting light weights, it’s better than sitting,” says FitRated certified personal trainer Jessica Jones.
Do you have arthritis? Fatigue? Limited mobility? Here’s how to get the most out of your workouts, whatever life throws at you.
Going through “the change” can present some unique challenges to your exercise regimen.
During this stage of life, estrogen levels decline, leading to uncomfortable symptoms such as:
hot flashes mood swings vaginal dryness weight gain
“The good news is that exercise on its own raises estrogen levels,” Jones says.
Her go-to for minimizing menopausal symptoms: a little heart-pumping cardio.
“Raising heart rate with moderate cardio for just 30 minutes a day can provide significant improvement,” Jones says. “You can start moderately with 10 to 15 minutes of brisk walking and work your way up to more intense aerobic activity as your body adjusts.”
For even better results, add strength training to the mix.
“Muscle burns three times as many calories as fat, and maintaining lean musculature goes a long way toward preventing slips, falls, and even osteoporosis,” Jones says.
She suggests starting with low weights and high reps and then moving up when you’re ready.
In addition to mood swings and weight gain, you may find that the hormone swings of menopause have turned up your internal thermostat. A decrease in lean muscle mass may be one reason for this.
If you feel too hot, exercising can become extra uncomfortable.
If you’re working out at home, Jones recommends a simple solution: just adjust the temperature of the room.
While exercising, keep a cool, wet towel within reach and stay hydrated!
When a hot flash hits mid-workout, don’t feel like you’re going through the heat.
You are free to reduce the intensity of your activity to literally allow yourself to catch your breath.
“Pause and do deep diaphragm breathing for a few minutes,” she advises.
Remember that the right clothing can also make a difference.
As attractive as your favorite yoga pants are, you may prefer to wear lighter, looser clothes to avoid vaginal dryness and the discomfort often associated with wearing tight clothes.
If you can’t switch training gear, Jones suggests getting extra help.
“Talk to your doctor about the possibility of low-dose vaginal estrogen treatment to reduce the chafing, pain, and irritation often caused by pairing vaginal dryness with sweatpants,” she says.
No one feels like exercising when they’re in pain, but exercising with arthritis isn’t necessarily a contradiction in terms.
“When it comes to exercising with osteoarthritis, it’s not as complicated as you might think,” says physical therapist and arthritis specialist Dr. Alyssa Kuhn. “The goal is to do what your joints are prepared for.”
So what exactly does that mean?
“A rule of thumb is to try moves that don’t cause pain greater than about 5 in 10,” Kuhn says. “Many new moves can feel a little uncomfortable at first, but if that discomfort stays the same or even disappears, you’re probably free!”
A little extra support from household objects can also help you exercise with arthritis.
Kuhn suggests squatting while hanging from the counter or doing a small push-up with your hands on the counter.
Water exercises can also provide a manageable, low-impact workout option. They help to strengthen the resistance of water without putting stress on the joints.
Remember to pay attention to how your body responds to a new exercise routine.
“Sometimes, although you don’t experience pain during the exercises, you may experience pain afterward,” says Kuhn. “Swelling and joint pain are common symptoms of overdoing it. If you experience this after a specific workout routine, reduce the number of reps next time.”
About 10 million Americans have osteoporosis, a condition that causes lower bone density and increases the risk of fractures.
A diagnosis of osteoporosis can leave you feeling insecure about what is safe at the gym and what is not.
You may have heard it before, but here’s it again: For treating osteoporosis, weight-bearing exercise is the name of the game.
“The research has shown time and again that to build stronger bones, you need to gain weight [on] them,” says Kuhn. “Higher impact exercises have also been shown to actually restore bone strength, especially in the hips.”
Start small with simple bodyweight exercises such as:
custom pushupssquatsyoga climbing
If you’re not sure where to start, consider working with a trainer or physical therapist who can advise you on safety and technique.
In a perfect world, we would feel with more energy every year. In reality, however, energy levels decline as we age, sometimes undermining our motivation to stay active.
Even if you go to the gym faithfully, you can get tired more easily during exercise.
“With the aging process comes cellular changes that cause a loss of muscle mass, which can lead to fatigue during workouts,” explains Jones.
As counterintuitive as it may seem, the best way to overcome fatigue is to keep exercising. If you stick to strength and endurance activities, your energy levels will likely begin to improve.
Jones offers the following tips:
Start gradually. Aim to do strength training at least 2 days a week using bodyweight, hand weights, kettlebells, or resistance bands. Consider low-impact bodyweight classes such as yoga or tai chi to improve muscle mass and increase energy. Stretch at the end of your workouts.
“Try taking short walks or swimming, going a little further each time,” Jones says.
And don’t forget to stretch.
“This improves the range of motion and efficiency of every movement you make during exercise,” she says.
If an injury or chronic condition has left you with limited mobility, exercise can be a daunting prospect.
Fortunately, several tools can help you persevere on the path to physical fitness.
“I recommend using support like a counter or sturdy chair to get started,” says Kuhn. “You can add a pillow or a cushion to the seat to increase its height, or you can also use a bed or higher surface when starting.”
Likewise, when you practice yoga, prepare yourself for success with props like blocks or wedges that lift the “floor” to the next level.
Still, you can benefit most from consulting a physical therapist or personal trainer. They can advise you which adjustments work best for you.
Finally, check in to your self-talk.
Instead of focusing on the things you can’t do, give yourself credit for overcoming obstacles and making your fitness a priority.
If you have any questions about whether it is safe for you to perform a particular type of activity, please do not hesitate to contact a healthcare professional.
Once you’ve got everything clear, stick to the following tips for safety:
Make sure you know how to use fitness equipment properly. Many gyms offer a weight room orientation so you can learn the ropes. If you have hearing and/or vision problems, avoid exercising in a crowded gym without an attendant. Ensure a good warm-up and cool-down. Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise. If you are exercising alone or outdoors, keep your cell phone handy for emergencies.
Do you want to do that little bit extra to make your workouts even more effective? Try these trainer tips:
Go for variety. Don’t skip flexibility and balance exercises. Keep a positive, can-do mentality. Do your best, but don’t overdo it.
“It’s so crucial to let your body guess and use different muscles,” Kuhn says. “Just adding sidesteps and walking backwards are two ways you can easily add variety!”
Don’t forget to add stretching and balance as well.
“Both components improve your ability to stay active without getting injured,” Jones says.
In addition, listen to your body.
“There’s a fine line between discomfort and pain, and your body will let you know the difference,” Jones says. “If you need to take a break or shift intensively, do it.”
Stay open minded about what you can do. You can surprise yourself!
This post The Definitive Guide to Adapt Your Fitness Routine for Every Phase of Life was original published at “https://fitnessrewop.com/2022/03/18/the-definitive-guide-to-adapt-your-fitness-routine-for-every-phase-of-life/”