It’s no secret that an active lifestyle is good for your body and mind. People with a regular fitness routine are more likely to have better health and greater independence as they age. But did you know that the kind of exercise we need to do changes with age? The exercise regimen that worked for you in your 20s may not be what your body needs in your 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond. Today, we’ll highlight how you can change your exercise routine to help you feel healthy and happy, whatever your age.

What’s happening to my muscles?

As we age, it’s normal for skeletal muscle to lose mass and strength.1 Our muscles aren’t able to regenerate as well and can decline in overall performance.1 But muscle strength and coordination are essential as we age in order to keep up with everyday life. Muscle strength powers the activities we want to do. It helps with everyday tasks, like bringing in the groceries and climbing stairs.2 It also helps prevent falls and makes it easier to get up from them.2

Exercise won’t reverse or stop the effects of age on muscle mass and strength. But it can slow the loss of function that naturally occurs as we age.1 In other words, exercise becomes more important as we age—not less.3 

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The CDC recommends that healthy adults should get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio (aerobic) activity per week.3,4 That breaks down to about 30 minutes a day, five days a week.3 Adults who prefer high-intensity activity should aim for 75 minutes per week.4 They also recommend doing strength (resistance) training activities twice a week or more.4 Choose a variety of activities that build up your endurance, strength, balance and flexibility.2 As you age, you can shift what you focus on in your workouts and lifestyle to give your body what it needs.

Tips for your fitness routine as you age:

  • In your 20s and 30s: This is the time to develop an active lifestyle and good eating habits to form a foundation for life. Activities include walking or jogging, dancing, swimming, biking, hiking outdoors and court sports like tennis, pickleball or basketball.2 Realistically, career and family obligations can make it hard to find time for fitness. But it’s always worth it to fit in cardio and strength training at least a few times a week.5
  • In your 40s: These years are a great time to continue with and build on the good habits you started in your 20s and 30s. Continue to aim for 150 minutes a week of cardio and eat well-balanced meals to stay healthy and strong.5 Also, do strength training like lifting weights a few times a week.5
  • In your 50s: Midlife adults might start to shift down the intensity of their exercise but increase the duration.5 Instead of a moderate run, maybe you opt for a longer brisk walk to get the benefits without the impact.5 Some ideas for strength work are body weight exercises like pushups and pullups, squats and resistance training with elastic bands.2
  • In your 60s and beyond: Older adults should mix in some balance work a few times a week, in addition to cardio and strength activities.4 You can work on your grip strength with exercises like squeezing a tennis ball.2 Some activities, such as Tai Chi and dancing, combine strength, cardio and balance work.2,4

At any age, it’s important to incorporate stretching into your activities.2 Flexibility helps you move freely in your everyday activities.2 Remember to treat your body to a warmup and cool-down before and after cardio activities.2 And always, always listen to your body. If something hurts or doesn’t feel right, stop and reassess. Talk with your primary care provider about starting or making any changes in your exercise routine to make sure it’s safe for you. They can help you fine-tune the right amount and type of exercise based on your health needs and goals.

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Published March 25, 2024


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