Staying in shape in your 60s and beyond

Welcome to the golden years – this age can be great for you and might be your most rewarding – that’s if you have the health to enjoy it! Retirement is around the corner or you’re there already. The kids are out of the house and chances are you’ve got more time on your hands. You may feel a new lease on life. While your body may be aging and you may feel yourself starting to slow down, it’s no excuse not to exercise. Loss of muscle and bone isn’t just due to aging. It’s largely due to lack of use. And though you may not be able to run miles like you used to, it’s no excuse for not exercising. You’ll just have to adjust your activity to your ability.

As your age increases, bone density often decreases, putting your bones at an increased risk of breakage. Walking on uneven ground or missing a stair step could easily lead to a broken a hip or other bone. A single broken bone will immediately limit your independence and possibly lead to further complications. During your 60s, it’s important to focus on weight bearing and muscle strengthening exercises to increase muscle mass and strengthen your bones. You’ll be less prone to falls, and if you do happen to trip, your bones will be strong enough to withstand the pressure.

Weight bearing exercises are those that make you move your body against gravity. If you’re in good enough health to do high impact activities, go ahead and jog, dance, or play tennis. But if you’re already feeling the effects of aging, choose low impact activities such as walking, elliptical machines, or low intensity aerobic movements. Get at least 30 minutes of weight bearing cardio exercises three days a week.

Remember, strong bones are supported by strong muscles. Strengthen your muscles with exercises that use a weight or resistance against gravity. Options include weight lifting, weight machines, or elastic exercise bands. Adjust the amount of weight to your fitness level. Start out small and slowly increase the weight each week. Aim to include strength-training exercises in your routine three days a week. You will notice your strength improving slowly but surely.

Weak bones and muscles put you at risk for falls, but so does a lack of balance. Practice balancing exercises each day so when you’re caught off guard, you’ll be able to keep your feet underneath you. If you feel wobbly getting in and out of your seat or climbing stairs, practice standing on one foot for as long as you can. Do this multiple times each day, and be sure to stand near a support in case you begin to lose your balance while performing the exercise.

During your sixth decade, your joints may begin giving you problems. But don’t let aches and pains stop you from exercising. While high impact activities such as jogging or basketball place stress on the joints and could lead to more pain, arthritis pain is often relieved through low impact exercise.

Force yourself to get up and take walk or ride a stationary bike several times a week. Going swimming and taking an aquatic aerobics class are other great options for those who suffer with arthritis.

As your age goes up, so does your risk of heart disease and stroke. Keep your circulatory system in tiptop shape with regular cardio exercises. Cardio will not only strengthen your bones and muscles but your heart as well. Aim for three days a week of the low impact cardio exercises like the ones listed above. Don’t push yourself to exhaustion, but get your heart rate elevated for at least 30 minutes.

Strong bones and muscles, a good sense of balance, flexible joints, and a strong ticker will keep you feeling your best in your 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and beyond!

Jack Wheeler is a personal trainer and owner of 360 Fitness in Red Deer.

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