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Should Exercise Change With Age?

Posting Date: 07/25/2000

Q: Does my exercise plan need to change as I get older? I?m now 68 and I continue to exercise. However, sometimes I feel the effects of the workout longer than I used to. What do you suggest?

A: Good for you for keeping up with the exercise. By no means should we stop exercising as we get older. This is a crucial time to stay fit, healthy and limber. However, there are a few things to keep in mind as you exercise and a few exercises that will be gentler on your body. Here are a some tips:

  • The older you are the longer you need to exercise. But, you need to exercise more gently.

  • Don?t do the same exercise every day.

  • Pick exercises that use different sets of muscles so that one set can repair while you exercise the other. Swimming, which uses the upper-body muscles more than any other aerobic exercise, is an excellent cross-training choice. It?s not the fastest way to burn fat, so couple it with a gentle land exercise such as walking.

  • Older people need more time to recover from strenuous exercise. After a tough workout, give yourself enough time to repair and to get over the soreness before you push yourself again. This really becomes noticeable after a weight lifting session. Young people repair muscle tissue in 48 hours, but older people may need 72 hours to repair tissue after a strenuous workout.

  • Stay flexible by doing daily stretches, yoga or exercise that involves a large range of motion.

  • As you age, your muscles are more likely to stiffen up after exercise, which increases your chance of injury. Here again, swimming (or an aerobic water activity) is the answer. Nobody ever says, "Boy, I sprained my ankle swimming!" Exercise in the water can be very intense, but it doesn?t have the pounding and jarring associated with other forms of hard exercise. If you don?t have access to a swimming pool, try a "dry-land swimming machine." These are machines that you can?t get hurt on. For example, aerobic riders use all the muscles in the body yet puts stress on none of them, just as if you were swimming.

    Adapted from The Ultimate Fit or Fat by Covert Bailey and Lea Bishop. Copyright 1999 by Covert Bailey, published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.