Fitness: How to find the perfect workout at every age


man in gym

Fitness giant Les Mills discovered that Gen Z (under-25s) want to improve fitness (Image: nc)

The study from fitness giant Les Mills discovered that Gen Z (under-25s) want to improve fitness, Millennials (26-40) are motivated by weight loss, while Gen X (41- 55) and Baby Boomers (56-76) look for stress relief, improving mental health and strength building.

Experts also agree that the type of exercise most beneficial to us changes from decade to decade, be it weight-bearing in our 20s or balance boosters in our 70s and beyond.

So when it comes to fitness, is it time to act our age?

We ask the experts how it’s done.

YOUR 20S…

ESTABLISH GOOD HABITS

“Use this decade to establish good habits,” advises Bryce Hastings, head of research at Les Mills (lesmills.com/uk).

Osteoporosis, diabetes and weight gain can all be prevented in the future by what you do now.

“The aim should be to build bone density and muscle as there is a slow decline from age 30 onwards,” he advises.

‘”Keep movement varied interesting – aim for times a “In particular, weight-bearing exercises are needed for bone health – so run, jump and skip.”

ENJOY IT

“Keep movement varied and interesting, but regular – aim for three times a week,” suggests Nicola Addison-Newland, personal trainer and wellbeing expert at Healthspan (healthspan.co.uk).

“Make fitness fun by experimenting.” Find something you like – those most likely to continue exercising in later life are people who find it enjoyable.

yoga

Strike a pose… Yoga and Pilates can help posture (Image: nc)

JOIN A TEAM

Develop movement, coordination and agility, says Bryce. “Consider multiplayer sports and even joining a team – for example football or netball.

“In a team game, you’ll find yourself running backwards and sideways, which you simply wouldn’t do if working out alone.”

USE YOUR TIME

Push yourself while you’re “time rich” suggests Ruth Stone, personal trainer with sweatband.com.

“And if you fancy a challenge, then this is the decade to train for marathons and triathlons.”

YOUR 30S…

LITTLE & OFTEN

Muscle mass will start to decrease in this decade so you should exercise regularly – alternating cardio and resistance.

“Think little and often if you’re fitting in with the demands of parenting and working,” advises Ruth.

High intensity workouts (HIIT), with sharp bursts of energy and movement, are good for the time-poor as they can be done in 20 minutes.

PROTECT YOUR PELVIC FLOOR

“Pregnant and post-pregnancy bodies require nurturing exercises,” explains Ruth, who recommends yoga and Pilates for rebuilding strength and pelvic floor tone.

Surveys show many women are aware of the importance of their pelvic floor, despite 40 percent of female respondents experiencing urinary incontinence after birth.

Download the NHS Squeezy app (£2.99) for simple exercises.

STEP TO IT

“Yes, you’re busy, but use your diary and dule in exercise,” suggests Nicola. “Daily movement is critical. Use a FitBit or equivalent activity tracker to focus on achieving 10,000 steps a day.”

Now is the time to make good fitness a part of everyday life.

YOUR 40S…

SET A GOAL

This is the sandwich generation – juggling kids, ageing parents and work demands while the combination of hormones and a slowing metabolism take effect.

“An inactive lifestyle catches up with you in this decade,” says Bryce.

Nicola says: “Create a goal that might require a new skill, such as learning how to play golf or embarking on a couch to 5k running plan.”

couple walking with dog

Owning a pet can boost your fitness regime (Image: nc)

FIND A TIME THAT WORKS

You know yourself better than anyone, so work out when you’re most likely to exercise – and do it. If you’re a night owl, try an evening run.

Finding an activity that fits into your lifestyle at a time that works for you means you’re more likely to stick to it.

“This could be a bootcamp class, a Park Run on a Saturday morning or a hike to catch up with friends,” says Nicola.

PICK PILATES

Years of sitting at a desk or driving a car can round the shoulders and, in your 40s, this can cause discomfort and add years to the way you look and feel. So why not seek out your local Pilates class to boost strength, tone and posture?

There are plenty of free tutorials online too.

YOUR 50S…

STAY STRONG

According to Sport England, 37 percent of those over 55 have done less exercise during the pandemic – making them the age group most likely to have lost strength.

This matters because strength protects the body from age-related decline.

“Strength training is vital,” explains Bryce.

Make sure you’re working every area of your body by incorporating push moves (push-ups, shoulder press with weights), pull moves (back rows, bicep curls), squats (with weights if possible), hinges (kettlebell swings, deadlifts) and load-bearing (carrying heavy shopping)

IT’S NEVER TOO LATE

The good news is that it’s never too late to become more active, says Bryce.

Studies show that for people who began exercising in their 40s and 50s, rates of death from heart disease fell by 43 percent compared to people who’d never exercised. What’s more, the cancer death rate fell by 16 percent.

TIME FOR TENNIS

“Consider taking up sports that involve different planes of movement, agility and coordination, such as tennis and golf,” suggests Bryce.

“If you haven’t already, include activities to counteract poor posture, such as yoga. As well as stabilising muscles, the breathing and mindfulness aspects combat stress.”

YOUR 60S…

POOCH POWER

For many, this is the decade they become “time rich” once more. “So make the most of extra time in retirement by joining a hiking club or playing bowls,” advises Bryce. “And consider getting a dog if you don’t already have one.”

Countless studies show this is an effective way to boost fitness and combat loneliness.

RESISTANCE BANDS

Strength not only keeps muscles, bones and joints strong, enabling you to move around better and reduce the risk of osteoporosis, but it’s associated with a better quality of life and being able to carry out day-to-day functional tasks.

Using resistance bands increases strength, flexibility and endurance. Try Strength and Flex, a five-week NHS exercise plan for beginners.

ADAPT IT

Don’t be afraid to adapt your usual workout to avoid joint stress – replacing long runs with shorter jogs or riding a stationary bicycle. Don’t be tempted to get a gardener, do it yourself, and walk with family and friends instead of inactive visits.

a couple in the garden

Garden party… Tending your plants will help keep you strong (Image: nc)

YOUR 70S AND BEYOND…

USE IT OR LOSE IT

“With each advancing year the phrase ‘use it or lose it’ becomes more imperative when it comes to fitness,” warns Bryce.

In later life there’s a natural slowing of the mind-to-muscle connection, but challenging the body with different activities can keep these neural pathways firing. Try Zumba and keep-fit classes, which involve coordination skills and boost the mind.

STRETCH IT OUT

“Stretching and balance boosters are absolute musts to help prevent falls,” explains Bryce.

Start the day with gentle stretches to wake up muscles, reduce the risk of aches and injuries and aid circulation. Work on your balance while brushing your teeth. Rise up on your toes and hold that position. Then stand on one foot, before alternating with the other.

MAKE IT SOCIAL

Research suggests a lack of significant social relationships can be as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day.

“Social exercise is key,” says Nicola.

“Dancing is a perfect way to combine activity with socialising,” adds Bryce.

“It not only increases your heart rate, but involves coordination and learning choreography, working the hippocampus area of the brain to stave off dementia.”



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