General declines in muscle mass and skeletal health that come with age can leave people susceptible to injury.
Will my body get weaker as I age?
That's up to you; you have control over that, says Chad Landers, founder of Push Private Fitness in Los Angeles, who has trained older clients for 26 years. “The difference between people who work out and those who don't isn't that big when you're 20 or 30. But in your 50s and beyond? It's huge.” Any exercise is worthwhile, though Landers advises basic strength training as the bedrock for every older adult.
Am I too out of shape to exert myself?
"I say you're too out of shape not to exert yourself,” Landers adds. One study of more than 1,200 cases of sudden cardiac arrest in people ages 35 to 65 found that only 5 percent happened during physical activity. The bigger risk, experts agree, is lack of exercise. A massive study — of 334,000 people — found lack of fitness to be responsible for twice as many early deaths as obesity, and even introducing moderate activity can reduce your risk by 16 to 30 percent. “The oldest client I ever had started with me at age 87, and she increased her strength well into her 90s,” Landers says. “Too out of shape isn't a valid excuse for anything.”
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Is my daily walk enough exercise?
Yes, if you're walking briskly. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week; five brisk 30-minute walks makes the cut. But why stop there? “Your body can do more than just walk,” Landers notes. “Add little challenges that won't take up extra time.” Every five minutes, do five walking lunges for each leg. Detour your route to include hills or stairs. Or sub out one walk per week for a swim in the local pool. And as mentioned, strength training is key as you age; can you mix in some fitness for above your hips? Do at least two days a week of resistance training, including pushing and pulling exercises for both the upper and lower body.
Weight lifting is a total turnoff. What should I do instead?
You don't have to think of strength training as lifting weights in a gym. “All you need to do is add resistance to movements, or simply work against gravity during your day,” Landers says. Carrying a laundry basket up stairs, walking to the end of the driveway and back carrying full gallon jugs and squatting to clean under furniture all count as strength training. Using stretch bands at home is another low-cost, highly effective way to train. And you can do a full-body workout with push-ups, sit-ups, squats and lunges — no weights required.