A lot of people still believe that aging and physical decline go hand in hand. Sure, if you are over 60, it is unlikely that you can deadlift 100 pounds or run a mile in under three minutes. However, there is no reason why older people shouldn’t be able to stay strong, fit and healthy by taking part in regular exercise, including strength training. Being fit after the age of 60, in other words, is something that you choose to do.
The New York Times recently published an important article on fitness after 40.
A large number of studies in the past few years showed that after age 40, people typically lose 8 percent or more of their muscle mass each decade, a process that accelerates significantly after age 70.
However, this is not inevitable. In fact, competitive swimmers and cyclist who were in their 70s or 80s could remain just as strong as what they were in their 60s. Although the physical strength in their muscles did decrease, the process of actually losing tissue could be halted, or at least slowed down, by taking part in training. So what sort of training should you do in order to stay fit and healthy over 60?
Women over 60 often have joint problem. Many will have developed some degree of arthritis and they may also notice that their joints and ligaments are simply not as strong as before. Stretching regularly is easy and effective to do.
Dr. Karl Knopf, a consultant for the National Institutes on Health and author of “Stretching for 50+,” suggests a variety of basic stretching exercises such as head and shoulder rolls, wrist and ankle circles and movements that mimic chopping wood.
None of these exercises are particularly tiring or require a lot of physical strength or stamina. However, they are very effective and the health benefits they offer are tremendous. Best of all, you don’t even need to leave the house in order to do them.
Engaging in cardiovascular exercise is also very important. Not only does it help to lo
se weight, or keep it down, it also helps to strengthen the heart. This is incredibly important if you are over 80. The heart is a muscle, after all, and as with all muscles, you need to make sure it receives plenty of exercise.
ACSM recommends working at a level that is “hard enough to raise your heart rate an
d break a sweat,” but still allows one “to carry on a conversation.” This ensures that the body is being stimulated but not so intensely that there is a risk of overexertion.
We are always told that as we age, we should take part in fewer high impact activities. While this is true to some degree, the reality is actually that you should do exercises that are as high impact as possible for your body.
Each time your foot hits the ground you apply a stress to your bones, which respond by maintaining or sometimes increasing their strength, which can be measured in terms of increased bone mineral density (BMD). The higher the impact of the activity contact, the greater the benefit to your bones.
If you have never taken part in any real physical exercise, you will need to focus on reasonably low impact. However, don’t shy away from something that is classed as high impact. Rather, find out just how far you can push yourself. Perhaps you can no longer use a skipping rope, but you can probably hop on the spot several times without it causing any type of damage to your body.