When we’re young, exercise enables us to run after an all-nighter or snowboard on a diet of Doritos. But as we age, fitness has far reaching effects, boosting our energy levels, preventing injuries and keeping us mentally sharp.
Aging causes muscles to shrink, bone density to thin and joints to stiffen – affecting our balance, coordination and strength. At the same time, hormonal changes and persistent low-level inflammation can set the stage for chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
And the changes start earlier than you think. Muscles begin to shrink in our 30s and continue their downward spiral into midlife, with up to 25 percent of their peak mass gone by the time we’re 60.
But there is hope: Exercise can prevent muscle loss, cognitive decline, and fatigue. “It’s never too late and never too early to start exercising,” said Chanda Datta, a gerontologist at the National Institute on Aging.
However, you may not start lifting 150 pounds at the gym. Start slow, experiment and gradually increase the intensity.
Experts suggest trying exercises that target one or more of the four categories of fitness, all of which tend to deteriorate with age: flexibility, balance, endurance and strength. Maintaining function in these areas can prevent injury and disability, allowing you to remain active and independent for longer.
Dr. Brian Feeley, chief of sports medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said there is no magic-bullet, full-body exercise regimen to stop aging. Here are five movements to try, which target different areas of the body.
Strengthen the lower body: Squats and stairs.
During exercise, “injuries tend to happen when you’re fatigued, and your muscles can’t react as quickly,” Dr. Feeley said. Squats help prevent this fatigue by engaging the large muscles in your lower body, moving multiple joints at once, which improves overall endurance as well as balance and coordination.
Doctor. Feeley suggests doing three sets of 10 to 15 squats four times a week. To further challenge your balance, prop them up with one foot or both feet on a pillow. Or to focus on strength, do squats while holding the free weight — close to your chest to start or extended in front of you — to work your core more.
If you hate squats but still want to strengthen the same muscle groups, try stair climbing, which adapts to different fitness levels, says Dr. Maria Fiartone Singh, a geriatrician at the University of Sydney. Start by walking up and down stairs, and gradually start running or wearing ankle weights.
For added difficulty, climb the stairs a foot or two higher — holding onto the railing if necessary for safety. “Hopping is a power movement for your hip and knee extension,” says Dr. Fearon Singh said. If you’re pressed for time, switch it up to high-intensity exercise, with four-minute bouts of high-intensity effort, with three minutes of rest between bouts, four times a week.
Can’t even give that much time? “Even four minutes, four days a week significantly improves aerobic capacity,” said Dr. Phairton Singh.
Get your heart rate up: Take Nordic walking.
As a cross-country skiing enthusiast, a rehabilitation physician at University Hospitals in Cleveland, Dr. Michael Schaefer prefers Nordic walking — an exercise using ergonomic poles that uses similar movements. No ice needed.
“Nordic walking is unique as an aerobic exercise because you’re not only using the major muscle groups of your legs and hips, but also your core, shoulders and arms,” Dr. Schaefer said. The diet lowers blood pressure and improves the body’s use of oxygen. And when you walk up hills or on uneven ground, you’re strengthening your ankles and challenging your vestibular system — a sensory system located in the inner ear that enhances balance and coordination.
“Start with 15 to 20 minutes three times a week and work up to an hour,” says Dr. Schaefer advised.
The basic motion — walking, using poles to propel your movement — can take some getting used to, but online videos or your local Nordic walking group can get you started. The key is to swing your arms as if they were clockwork pendulums, keeping the elbows relatively straight and pushing off while planting your pole behind you and extending your opposing leg.
Gillian Stewart, program director for Nordic Walking UK, recommends buying Nordic walking poles because they are snug against the position they are in during exercise. In a pinch, Dr. Schafer said, “regular running poles will work,” but not ski poles.
Train your upper body: Try walking.
If Katie Bowman, a kinesiologist, had her way, everyone’s New Year’s resolution would include a trip across monkey bars. “It’s such a preparatory movement, and it uses all these upper parts of our body” that otherwise aren’t used very often, said Ms. Bowman, author of “Rethink Your Position.”,,
Hanging from a horizontal bar increases grip strength and shoulder mobility, strengthens the core and stretches the upper body — from the chest to the spine to the forearms.
As with any exercise, it’s best to progress slowly – start by hanging onto a box or chair with your feet on a bar so that muscles unused to lifting weights get used to some tension Can From there, move to an active hang, in which your shoulder blades are retracted and pulled down (as if you’re about to begin a pull-up), your core and arms are engaged, and your Hands are shoulder width apart. ,
Add a slight swing from front to back or right to left to work the core and spine even more. Or mix up your grips — with hands facing away from you or toward you, or one of each — to emphasize different muscles. An underhand grip, for example, loads the biceps more than an overhand grip, which works the lats.
And you don’t need fancy equipment to get the hang of it. Ms. Bowman suggests creating a hanging station in your home with “a $20 doorway chin-up bar that doesn’t take up much of a footprint.” Since she’s installed one, she said, she’s seen a “radical” increase in her upper-body and grip strength—which has been linked to a reduction in all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. A little bit also works: Start with a 20-second hang, working up to a full minute, twice a day.
“Frequent, short hangs distributed throughout the day are your best bet for making progress,” Ms. Bowman said. Once you feel comfortable with one-minute hangs, he recommends eight to ten with an hour of rest in between. These breaks also give the skin on your hands some time to adapt.
Strengthen your core and hips: Use a slider.
If you work at an office or desk, all that sitting can do a number on your hip flexors, the muscles that help bend your knees toward your pelvis and stabilize your spine. And hunching over a desk shortens muscles in the chest while lengthening them in the back, contributing to text neck, which is muscle strain and weakness of the lower neck, shoulders and upper back.
To counteract this, Nicole Sciacca, a mobility specialist in Los Angeles, pairs climbers with sliders — small discs on which you rest your hands or feet that slide freely across the floor (or, you can use paper plates can be used). Training on an unstable surface increases the intensity of an exercise, forcing you to engage your core — especially the diaphragm, transverse abdominis and pelvic floor — to maintain position.
“It’s great because it asks everything with the front part of the body that is sitting at a desk or sleeping in the car,” Ms Sciacca said.
If you’re new to working your upper body and core, Ms. Ciacca suggests holding a simple plank for 30 seconds. Once this is comfortable, place your feet on the sliders, assume the same position, and work to steady yourself.
To progress, walk your leg under your body until your knee reaches your chest. Slide that foot back out when your other foot is in. Keeping the core strong and back straight, continue alternating your legs for three rounds of eight reps. Or try a 60-second timed effort when you’re ready for more. Variations include bringing your knees in and then out at the same time or kicking your feet out in a jumping-jack motion.
Improve Your Flexibility: Foam roll.
Tala Khalaf, a physical therapist at Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif., thinks of fascia — a system of connective tissue that wraps around our muscles and organs — as the Cinderella of orthopedic medicine. Over the years, this tissue, which is studded with sensory nerves and may appear like a sheath around the outside of muscles or found within them, has been neglected and reduced to obscurity.
But research in the past decade has raised fascial tissue as an important component of the musculoskeletal system. As we age, fascia becomes less flexible and elastic, which contributes to back pain, stiffness and a limited range of motion.
Dr. Khalaf, who is also a professor at Stanford The Orthopedic Physical Therapy Clinical Residency Program said one solution was foam rolling, which massages facial kinks and improves flexibility. Best of all, the basic moves are simple and time-efficient. Specific areas to roll include the calves, thighs and back. Experiment to see which exercises provide the most relief.
A Workout Schedule to Get You Started
Now, weave all the threads together – at least five days a week for the purpose of exercise. Doctor. Feeley recommends mixing and matching exercises that hit the four dimensions of fitness, but notes that its components can be rearranged based on what you like and want to improve.
squats / stairs
squats / stairs