Strength training and weight-bearing exercise keep you healthy.
Resistance exercise and cardio routines are equally important as you age. People in their 30s and 40s who don't perform regular resistance exercise lose about half a pound of muscle a year. After the age of 50 that doubles to about a pound a year, according to Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D, C.S.C.S. Muscle atrophy can lead to infirmity and the inability to care for yourself. But the good news is resistance training and weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, keep the muscles toned and healthy. In addition, exercise stimulates the formation of new neurons in the hippocampus, the area of the brain associated with memory, learning and the ability to make decisions.1.
Perform resistance training with dumbbells or resistance bands two to three times a week. Work out the major muscle groups with squats or lunges for the lower body, biceps curls and triceps extensions for the arms, lateral arm lifts for the deltoids, flyes for the upper back, chest presses for the front and crunches for your core. If you've never resistance trained before or have been away from it for awhile, take it slow and easy. You might want to start by using your body weight only.2.
Choose a weight that's comfortable for you depending on your level of fitness. You can sit or stand for the upper-body exercises. Remember, it's more effective to keep the muscle engaged throughout the move. Do the movements slowly with control, repeating the move until your muscles feel tired or you feel a slight burning sensation. When three sets of 15 reps become easy, you can increase weight.3.
Strengthen opposing muscles. For example, if you work out the biceps, it's a good idea to also exercise the triceps, or if you are building quadriceps, you'll want to build muscle in the gluteus maximus and hamstrings as well. This is also a good reason for doing large muscle group exercises. Squats engage all of the large muscles of the lower body, making this an efficient move. Pushups are effective for the upper body. For those with less upper-body strength, start pushups facing a wall. Place your hands at shoulder height, lower your body until your nose almost touches the wall and slowly push away.4.
Do crunches or planks for a strong core. Crunches are executed lying on your back with knees bent toward the ceiling, tucking your heels as close to your buttocks as possible. Lift your shoulders off the floor about 2 inches or as high as you can. Point your chin to the ceiling and lift. In the beginning, you can cross your arms in front of your chest. As your core becomes stronger, lightly link your fingers behind your head. But be careful not to fall into the trap of pulling on the back of your head with your hands. Do a plank by lying face down on the floor, lift your torso by placing your elbows on the floor under your shoulders. Position your feet on your toes so your body resembles a plank of wood. Hold this position for as long as you can. Rest and repeat. As you increase in strength, you can raise yourself to your hands.5.
Include the activities that give you enjoyment when considering the aerobic or cardio portion of your exercise regimen. Walking, dancing or hiking with friends are just three possibilities for getting your heart rate up. "You want to break a light sweat and feel like you're huffing and puffing, but you should still be able to speak," says Majid Fotuhi, M.D., chairman of the Neurology Institute for Brain Health and Fitness in Lutherville, Maryland. The gold standard is 30 minutes over five days or 150 minutes a week. Studies show that it's a good idea to get outside in a green environment. Try to avoid crowded, noisy venues.
- Free weights or resistance bands
- Sturdy chair
- Supportive sport shoes
- In the beginning, you may want to seek the guidance of a fitness counselor, who can give you advice on proper form.
- As a substitute for dumbbells of varying weights, you can use whatever you have around the house, such as food cans, books or recycled milk jugs filled with varying levels of water.
- When doing squats, you may want to lower yourself very lightly on to the edge of a chair seat. Do not sit all the way down, though. The idea is to give you a point of reference and a bit more security if you have balance problems.
- Give yourself 60 seconds of rest between sets.
- If you can do only one set of each exercise at the beginning, that's more than you were doing before. The important thing is to get up and move.
- The exercises can be done with resistance bands, which are more convenient if you have limited storage space or want to work out while you're traveling. The bands are available in most sports stores.
- Always give yourself at least one day off between sessions. Your muscles need a chance to heal.
- Never start with a weight that feels too heavy or makes you feel out of balance. It's better to use resistance that seems too light than to injure yourself the first time out. Remember you have quite a few repetitions involved, by the time you reach the last one a light weight can start to feel heavy.
- Be aware that part of the workout process also involves not just your muscles, but ligaments and tendons too, which also need time to become stronger.