Fitness exercises for different age groups

Keeping active is key to a healthy lifestyle. However, our bodies needs change as we get older and we need to target our exercise accordingly, says Andy Darling

Published: Thu 14 Aug 2008, 11:02 AM

Last updated: Wed 1 Mar 2023, 10:14 AM

Age 10-20

A wide range of activities is preferable. “Building up as much bone mineral density as possible is vital,”

says UK doctor, Spencer- Smith. “Hopping, running, skipping, jumping off things and rapid twisting are all important.”

Weight training was previously thought to be detrimental to the physical development of adolescents, but there has recently been a substantial shift in thinking, and exercising with weights is known to increase bone density.

Age 20-30

It is still important to develop bone mineral density at this age, so the ideal activities are weightbearing, dynamic ones, such as running, dancing, football or martial arts. “It is also good to do some posture work, such as Pilates, yoga, Alexander technique or balancing exercises on a Fitball (or Swiss ball),” says Spencer-Smith. “Anything involving balance is good, and it doesn’t have to be a formal, organised activity: dance is great.

Age 30-40

It is possible to play topclass sport until the mid- 30s.

“Everything is pretty good until about 35,” says Karen Hambly, senior lecturer in sports therapy at London Metropolitan University.

So it is important to do short, intense bursts of activity at this age, rather than thinking that fitness is all about building endurance.

Whatever cardiovascular activity you do, be it indoor rowing, running, swimming or triathlon, make sure you also do strength training. You can lose loads of weight doing endurance work, but weight training develops the whole body.

Age 40-50

The fifth decade is when our bodies express, ever more loudly, what they have been put through.

Joint wear and tear is commonplace, with signs of osteoarthritis often coming to light. Given that lung function declines with age, it is important to maintain cardiovascular fitness. If your knees are painful, then swim, cycle or use an indoor rower. Whatever the state of your joints, this is a good time to undergo gait analysis, which involves running on a treadmill while a sports-injury specialist, aided by a bundle of computer software, assesses postural abnormalities.

Age 50-60

Investment for later life is the mantra as we approach retirement age. Nerve conduction and reflexes slow down as we age. A classic cause of disability in elderly people is falling, because of loss of balance. Pilates, Alexander technique and corestability exercises can work wonders in training the neural system.

Strength training is a must, too. Use lighter weights, or rubber resistance bands instead. Aim for 20 to 30 repeats.

Age 60-70

Between the ages of 30 and 70, the average person loses 25 per cent of their muscle mass. In this decade alone, they lose 15 per cent of their strength. Relatively speaking, though, endurance increases, hence the number of veteran runners in marathons. While it could be argued that it would make sense to go in for plodding, ultradistance challenges to boost fitness levels, working on weaknesses, ie strength, should take priority.

Age 70-80

Our metabolism slows down as we become older and we require a lower caloric intake. This should be borne in mind when we exercise - otherwise that post-workout hunger could result in excess calories and increased body fat.

Social aspects become an important driver in staying active in your 70s. Yoga, t’ai chi and Pilates are all beneficial.

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