Keeping Fit After 60

Nothing makes you feel old like seeing your peers moving like “old people”.  I admit it’s one of my cringe making moments, making it harder to avoid the unwelcome fact that we’re all getting older.

One of the charming thing about the Leonard Cohen concerts was the way the aging bard danced on and off stage like a wilful faun, with no hint of creaking biology.

I appreciate people in their 90s may not be so strong on their pins, but when you see people in their early 60s stepping out tentatively like they fear they are going to trip on the kerb or get blown over by the next wind gust, you just wish they’d put some work into core body strength and balance…

More than wrinkles, more than having to don spectacles to read the cafe menu, the restricted movement ages someone faster than anything.

Staying Fit at 60,70, 80 . . .

As personal trainers will tell you, getting fit in later life is one thing; staying that way at 60, 70 and 80 is another.

Inevitably, the focus of your fitness program will change as you grow older, with emphasis on flexibility and core strength yielding increased benefits.

According to an Associated Press report, yoga and Pilates are great ways to stay strong and flexible if joints and the spinal column are starting to show signs of wear and tear.

Chris Freytag, a contributing fitness editor forPrevention magazine suggests you may have to mix more walking with your running, or move from the treadmill to the elliptical machine if you’re finding muscles or joints find the effort too strenuous.

Back, hips, knees, balance, cardio – all can be trouble spots and big blows to a positive attitude for seniors, said Freytag and fitness expert Denise Austin, who was Jack LaLanne’s sidekick on television and went on to her own workout shows, DVDs and books.

Boomer Fitness Focus

  • Flexibility

Pilates and yoga are great ways to stay strong and flexible beyond 50 because both can be easily modified. Focus on your core strength. Keep your spine healthy. Ensure joints and ligaments stay pliable and flexible. Taking time to stretch after a workout is especially important in your 60s and 70s.

Says Chris Freytag: “The lower back and hip flexors get really tight. The two are correlated. I recommend at least five to 10 minutes of stretching after a workout, when the muscles are warm.”

  • Balance

Warming up before a workout is key to balance. Start with five minutes of walking before getting into a gradual run, or intervals of walking and running.

Runners may need to balance workouts with more strength training and stretching to avoid hip and knee problems, adding muscle work for the abs is important for balance and flexibility. Add five minutes of strength training and five minutes of stretching, Denise Austin suggests.

“Really concentrate on the centre of your body. Your core. It is truly the powerhouse of your body. It affects how you walk, your flexors, it protects your back. That’s why Pilates is great.”

  • Cardio

With heart disease stalking both men and women, ageing doesn’t have to mean the end to a decent cardio workout.

Riding a bicycle is easier on the hips than running, for instance. Trim back on running to a couple of days a week and supplement on the bike. Or include dancing or swimming in your program.

For runners who can’t bring themselves to give it up, run more slowly, walk and run, or cross-train. Freytag suggests cardio work four days a week but only at high energy twice in that period.

Just Keep Moving

The key, say the experts, is not to give up, but to change and adapt to your body’s needs. That way you really will stay fit  at 60, 70 and 80.


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