(originally published in Gold Country Media 1/24/2012)
Being active throughout life is undeniably vital for good health, physical independence and longevity. It is widely known that workouts should integrate cardiovascular conditioning, balance, core, strength and flexibility exercises. As we age, our workouts should change with us, and though they naturally evolve through change in interests, the key to staying in great shape and health is modifying your workout to address the needs of your body.
Apply these simple guidelines to your workout to achieve better health at any age.
The goal of physical activity within this age range is to build and develop cardiovascular health, spatial awareness, coordination, motor skills and lifelong habits of activity. Integrate active play, such as tumbling, tag or climbing, into your child’s day for a minimum total of two hours, accumulated over several sessions.
Adolescents to teens (6-17)
As an adolescent it’s important to continue developing the healthful benefits and habits of childhood exercise and introduce resistance-training exercises, using proper form and technique.
Put the video games aside. Aim to participate in one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity, like soccer, running, swimming or cycling, each day. Resistance exercise before age 13 should be body-weighted only, but after age 13, adding three weekly 30-minute total-body strengthening and weight-bearing workouts consisting of eight to 12 exercises performed in two to three sets of 10 to 15 reps is safe and extremely beneficial. For balance, power and strength, make it a lifelong habit to select resistance exercises like TRX that integrate core training.
In adulthood, the goals of exercise grow to en-compass weight control, cardiovascular conditioning and disease prevention. Aim for five weekly 30-minute sessions of moderate- to high-intensity aerobic exercise.
Tennis, boot camps and running are all great options. Research shows that multiple bursts of activity are nearly as effective as one continuous session, so break it up if needed. As a general rule, three weekly 45- to 60-minute resistance workouts are a great start. Try eight to 12 different exercises targeting all major muscle groups, performed in one to three sets of 10 to 15 reps for a good full-body routine. Stretching is often overlooked. Just 10 minutes every other day, post-workout, when muscles are still pliable, will maintain healthy range of motion and reduce the risk of injuries.
Older adults (64+)
Strength, flexibility and balance training is paramount in maintaining mobility and reducing the risk of falling. Aim to exercise like a younger adult as long as it is sustainable. Perform moderate- to low-impact aerobic exercise in three to four 30-minute weekly sessions. Two weekly resistance training sessions are enough, but wait at least a day, possibly two, between sessions, as muscles need more time to recover. If weight-bearing exercises have become difficult, try water exercise. Continue to stretch at least every other day.
There is no end date to when you can start exercising. At any age you can make significant positive changes in your health, slowing or even reversing age-related physical declines. It’s never too late!