3 Ways to Start Exercising After 60: A Guide for Beginners
If you’re the one person on the planet who’s not on Facebook, congrats.
You’ve saved yourself from debilitating bouts of FOMO (fear of missing out) due to viewing travel photos from exotic locales, idealistic visits with perfectly well-behaved grandchildren and other fairy tale visions suitable for a Disney movie.
To all this I say: poppycock. Not out of envy (okay, maybe a little), but because the majority of these snapshots of perfectly-timed pieces of life are not representative of reality.
They are, as I recently heard them called, “life highlight reels.”
In other words, no one posts about the downside of these situations. Because talking about getting food poisoning from a Mexican street vendor or capturing your grandchild’s temper tantrum in the middle of Chuck E. Cheese isn’t anything we want to remember, let alone broadcast on the world wide web.
When It Comes to Fitness…
The same goes for fitness. You typically see the “before and after,” soft-filtered shots without knowing the story behind them.
Lifting weights when you’d rather veg out on the couch, cutting out chocolate, and limiting wine to weekends – and other less-than-fun actions – become glossed over in lieu of a strategically lit selfie.
When you can’t accomplish the same results yourself within a week, you may decide that being in shape just isn’t in the cards. It’s especially true if you’re a beginner and feel you “should’ve done something” years ago.
First, coming to this realization at any age is a major win. So, give yourself kudos.
Second, comparing your beginning to someone else’s end (e.g., highlight reels) sets you up for failure.
Keep in mind that everyone started somewhere. They just didn’t talk about it until they achieved some sort of success.
I know because I get emails every day from women in their 50s, 60s and 70s+ who are afraid – “Is it too late for me??” – to get started. In reality, it’s only too late when you can no longer fog a mirror.
Until Then, There Is Always Hope
Research shows that even people over the age of 90 can gain muscle strength. If you’re a whippersnapper of 80, you are still in the game. No excuses.
But why bother? Sounds like too much work, you may say. But there are many good reasons, most importantly:
Better strength reduces your risk of falls, especially if you incorporate balance exercises into your routine.
Muscle burns more calories at rest than fat. We start losing muscle in our mid-30s (let’s have a moment of silence for those years), so the commonly accepted loss of metabolism with age can be reversed with weight training.
You look better. You can’t shape fat, only muscle. Muscle gives your body definition and shape. Fat just gets… flabbier.
Not to mention a whole host of other benefits, including lower stress, better mood and lower blood pressure. The list goes on.
So yes, it’s worth it. Here are 3 ways to start exercising for beginners.
Lift Weights 2 to 3 Times a Week
The American College of Sports Medicine defines resistance training as “A form of physical activity that is designed to improve muscular fitness by exercising a muscle or a muscle group against external resistance.”
The external resistance may be your own body weight – push-ups, pull-ups, planks, etc. – or the use of dumbbells, kettlebells, fitness tubing, sandbags, barbells, buckets of water or cans of soup.
Do whatever exercise works for you, as long as you include all major muscle groups – i.e., chest, back, shoulders, arms, legs, glutes, core – and work beyond your comfort zone a bit.
Repetitions vary with the muscle group and exercise, but generally aim for 12 to 15 for two to three sets – one if you’re a beginner. The last few reps should be challenging. Otherwise you’re not doing enough to stimulate the muscle to become stronger.
Do Cardio 5 Times a Week
Strive for five to six days a week of 30 minutes of activity. You don’t need to do a full half-hour at once. You get the same heart health benefits in three 10-minute mini bouts of cardio.
If you don’t have time to do a structured walking workout, you can park 10 minutes from work or the mall and you can count the walk each way as two-thirds of your workout. Just add another 10 minutes at some point and you’re golden.
You can also mix cardio and resistance training, but you’ll need to keep moving to maintain a cardio level heart rate. Ideally, you want to get in one or two interval workouts as well. But I said I’d keep this simple, so I’ll leave it at that.
Stretch and/or Foam Roll Daily
Daily stretching is necessary for real flexibility results. Stretch while watching TV or otherwise sitting around and you’ll get it done before you know it.
You don’t have to stretch every muscle every day, but if back pain is an issue, a few daily stretches – takes maybe two, three minutes – make a huge difference. My back muscles give me grief unless I do a few targeted stretches every night.
Specific recommendations for each of these three tips varies individually, depending on many factors, but that’s the gist of a solid, overall fitness regime.
Did you hop on the fitness bandwagon later in life? If so, what do you enjoy? What results have you achieved? Please share your routine and how you got to develop it. Let’s discuss in the comments below.
Linda Melone, 59, is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, certified trainer and award-winning health and fitness writer. She specializes in helping women over 50 get in shape and lose weight. You can visit her website for more information.