I still train hard in my 40s, but as I've gotten older my focus has shifted from pounding weights to more band and body weight exercises, balance training, recovery, and cardio. I also do a better job of listening to my body. If my knees hurt after biking hard, I'll make sure to ice them when the workout is over. I spend one workout a week on preventive injury exercises for my hips and shoulders, like wall angels and hip lifts, especially important because I had surgery on both several years ago. Below are tips to incorporate for staying fit at any age.
To counter the effects of age-related muscle and bone loss, simple bodyweight exercises like squats, pushups, and crawling (great for your core) do the trick. Isometric exercises, where you hold a muscular contraction, like a plank, are great to incorporate because they help strengthen ligaments and tendons -- which are often the location of injury.
The one thing I would ease up on is power lifting. Although there's a group of people who lift heavy for life, it also leads to injuries.
If there's an area you've injured in the past, include some of those therapeutic exercises in your routine at least once a week. I'm not suggesting you do the hour-long workout you did in physical therapy, but incorporate a few of the exercises in your routine.
As we age, we lose flexibility. Getting on the floor, and getting back up gets harder. Stretching is a great way to counteract sitting and staring at a computer, television, and phone.
Yoga, with a good instructor, has benefited many of my clients. A simple warm-up routine before and after working out helps, like high knees, butt kicks, and shuffling sideways. I like to use a belt or band to stretch out my legs at least once a week. YouTube is a great resource -- look for yoga or stretching videos, find a routine you like. Thirty minutes of stretching is great, but even 2-5 minutes a day has benefits.
If you have the means, a good massage therapist can work out knots, loosen muscles, and help you relax. There are also hundreds of massage tools on the market. A quick Amazon search can be overwhelming. I like high density foam rollers and tennis balls. I lean against a wall with a tennis ball near my upper back, and gently press into it until my tightness eases up. A good Epsom bath always feels great too.
Who hasn't fallen on ice, a bad sidewalk, or a perfectly even surface? As we age, it's easier to fall. That's why working on balance is critical. Standing on one leg (I recommend holding on to something at first) is the easiest way to improve balance. Start with 20 seconds per leg and build up to a minute. I try and incorporate some sort of balance work every time I strength train.
Last but not least, let's talk about cardio. Cardiovascular training, such as running, walking, biking, or swimming is good for your heart and muscles.
I'm a big fan of walking because it's easy on your joints, requires little equipment, burns calories, builds muscle, and can be done daily. You can even split it up and do 10 minutes three times a day, with similar benefits to one 30-minute session. As we age, many people experience arthritis, making old favorites like tennis and basketball hard, but walking is often pain-free.
The real key to staying fit as you age is learning how to modify exercises. The best way to counter aging -- keep moving! As always make sure to consult your doctor before changing your exercise regimen.
Ron Krit is senior director of the Legacies & Endowments department of the Jewish United Fund and a Wellness Consultant.