Of all the benefits of exercise, keeping us young tops them all.
As early as our 20s, some of us start losing our immune function. Lots of what we “lose,” such as immune function, bone density, muscle mass and balance, can be caused by lack of exercise rather than simply aging.
Some of the many benefits of regular exercise include younger-looking skin, improved brain function, strong bones, lower levels of inflammation in the body and better balance. If you are just beginning an exercise program, it should be tailored to fit your age and physical condition.
In your 20s, get physically active! This is the time to develop good habits. Use food for fuel and get off the couch and into the gym. Staying in shape is much easier than getting in shape, so your future self will thank you.
In your 30s, we start to lose flexibility and cholesterol and blood pressure rise. People who are physically inactive can lose as much as 3-5% of their muscle mass per decade after age 30. Maintain muscle mass through strength training and weight-bearing exercises. If you sit at work all day, be sure to get up and move every 20 minutes and always take the stairs.
In your 40s, focus on flexibility, balance and functional exercises. Flexibility can help reduce injury and dynamic stretching can improve both flexibility and balance. Modify your strength training to include functional movements that coordinate more than one muscle group to help with everyday activities like lifting, bending, climbing stairs and playing with the kids.
In your 50s, start exercising if it is not a part of your routine already. Warm up for at least five minutes, stretch warmed muscles and get at least 30 minutes of exercise five days per week or 150 minutes per week. Strength train twice per week, perhaps with a personal trainer, or try group exercise classes with instructors that will give proper cues for good technique and a safe workout.
In your 60s, 70s and 80s, talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise program. Many health insurance companies offer programs like SilverSneakers that cater to active older adults. These programs are designed to include balance for fall prevention, strength training, cardiovascular conditioning and flexibility. The social activity alone that our YMCA participants have, in and outside of class, helps keep them young.
Angela Fulgieri is the Wellness Experience Director at the Plant City YMCA. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.