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The Evolution of Exercise as We Age

Go hard or go home. If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you. We’ve all heard the nuggets of so-called “fitspiration” urging us to go harder-better-faster-stronger, but at The Fine Line, we’ve noticed something: As we get older, popular advice doesn’t seem to apply anymore.

When it comes to exercise as we age, there are two schools of thought: We can still approach fitness the same way we did when we were 25, or — the other end of the spectrum — fitness is only for those who are still 25. Both couldn’t be more wrong. As our bodies mature, we may want — or moreover, need — to exercise differently than we did in our 20s and 30s. Here are five things to remember when it comes to the evolution of exercise in our lives as we age.

1. Just because you didn’t start early doesn’t mean you can’t start now.

It’s a myth that any one time is “too late” to start exercising. Exercise doesn’t need to begin in your 20s or 30s, despite all the fitness marketing with young, nimble women front and center that might have us thinking otherwise. In fact, beginning an exercise program now gives you the mental and emotional advantage of addressing exactly where you are right now, instead of trying to break old habits of doing what might have served you in decades past (but not so much anymore).

2. Exercising as you age is about way more than looking strong or staying svelte.

According to NHS Choices, the UK’s largest health website, there’s strong evidence that people who are active in the second halves of their lives have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, depression, and dementia. Sure, there are aesthetic benefits as well, but staying fit is about training to thrive in mind, body, and soul.

3. Listening to your body is more important than ever.

As we age, our bodies naturally experience wear and tear. Pamela Peeke, professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, told U.S. News & World Report that “No matter how active you’ve been, aches and pains will start to crop up now, and you’ll have to adapt your exercise regimen around them.” Joint problems might be getting you down, but that doesn’t mean you need to be down for the count! Give yourself options, swapping track laps for pool laps or taking dance or indoor cycling classes where the impact isn’t doing more harm than good. Your body also needs more time to recover from vigorous workout after age 50, so you might need to either scale back to mild to moderate intensity workouts more regularly, or, if you’re one of those people who likes to hit it hard, schedule in more rest days than you’re used to. Remember, recovery is a part of fitness protocol as well: That’s how all the good work you did can actually pay off.

4. Pumping iron isn’t just about pumping up.

Gone are the days of mindless reps — as we grow older, resistance training becomes more and more about the meaning behind the muscle. University of New Mexico associate professor of exercise science Len Kravitz, Ph.D., says that resistance training can actually reverse the aging process at the gene level by reversing the “age genes” being fully expressed — as well as by improving your muscles’ longevity. Stronger muscles and more lubricated joints mean more stability and less likelihood of a fracture — or worse — as bones become more fragile.

5. A trainer can be your best friend.

Even if you’re used to working out solo, a trainer can be your biggest asset as you age. Certified fitness professionals are trained to work with clients of all ages, body types, and fitness backgrounds. Not only can a trainer introduce you to new workouts to serve you best at this stage in life, he or she can also teach you how to modify what you’ve always loved about working out so that it can carry you through for the long haul.

Photo: Lumina

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