Exercise is a great way to stay youthful and even turn back the clock on aging. If you’re new to exercise or simply want a fitness reboot, here are ideas by the decade. You are at your absolute physical peak in your mid-20s, with the fastest reaction times and highest VO2 max the maximum rate at which the body can pump oxygen to muscles. After this peak, your VO2 max decreases by up to 1% each year and your reaction time slows each year.
Activity can slow this decline
The good news is that regular physical activity can slow this decline. Building lean muscle mass and bone density at this age helps you retain them in later years. Vary your training and keep it fun. Try tag rugby, rowing or boot camp. If you are a regular exerciser, get advice from an exercise professional to build “periodization” into your training regime.
This involves dividing your training regime into progressive cycles that manipulate different aspects of training such as intensity, volume and type of exercise to optimize your performance and ensure you peak for a planned exercise event, such as a triathlon. In Your 20s: Experiment with different workouts to find what you enjoy. Make exercise a regular habit that you won’t want to give up, even when career and family make heavy demands on you.
In Your 30s: Short on time? Try three 15-minute walks spread throughout the day. To stay fit and retain muscle, do cardio just about every day and strength training two or three times a week. If you’re new to exercise, take classes or have a personal trainercreate a program for you.
The low intensity exercise
In Your 40s: Enhance your weekly routine by doing both low intensity exercise, like yoga for stress relief and flexibility, and high-intensity workouts, like interval training or a spin or kettlebell class, to boost calorie burn and muscle elasticity. Expect longer recovery times after high-intensity workouts, so make sure to get enough sleep.
In Your 50s: Regular exercise remains a must, but ask your doctor for modifications if you have any chronic conditions. Varying your workouts or taking up a new sport will engage your brain as well as different muscles. Get in at least one or two high-intensity workouts a week and try to take active vacations that include favorite pastimes like biking, hiking or even walking tours.
In Your 60s and Beyond: Stay fit and strong to stay independent longer, and stay socially engaged by taking group classes. Stick with strength training, but consider using machines rather than free weights for more control. Water workouts may be easier on joints, too, especially if you have arthritis. But always keep moving. Try tai chi for flexibility and balance, and go dancing for fun and fitness.