There’s a common misperception that gyms are mostly for young, fit, active individuals. Those in their 20s on the go with plenty of energy. But people aged 55 and older actually make up more than 20 percent of all club members and that number is growing – particularly as preventative healthcare keeps many of us active well into our later years. With September marking Healthy Aging Month, we asked older gym members and trainers for their best tips to make working out tailored, effective and fun – even as we age. Here are their top picks.
Fine-tune your workouts for what your body actually needs
As you age your body and metabolism change – and the things that worked for weight management and healthy fitness habits when we were younger begin to have less impact on our goals. After age 50, the collagen in the body’s tendons decreases meaning older active people are less flexible than they once were. Muscle mass and bone density, particularly in women, decrease too. In our 50s and 60s we lose three percent muscle mass a year. By age 70 that accelerates to 70 percent.
If you’re younger than 50 now, or at any age, prioritize a daily stretching routine to maximize flexibility now which will help with balance as you age. Try an all over body stretch for ten minutes a day for best results. Bone density decreases too as we age, so weight or body weight training should be a core component of any workout. It’s a misperception that older people don’t or shouldn’t do higher intensity training. Moderate exercise like walks and bike rides are fine, but don’t increase the heart rate which helps prevent the rise of risk factors for heart disease that increase with age. Go at your own pace, of course, and build in more rest (perhaps doing yoga or Pilates) which are essential after 50 for the body and muscles to heal.
Consistency is key – exercise regularly, often and well
Trainers say consistency is more important than intensity to meet fitness goals – and that’s arguably even more important as we get older. Weight training once a week won’t help enough with maintaining muscle mass or supporting bone strength. Similarly, if you’re part of a class, sticking with it for a month, or months, going at least once and preferably several to see results.
For more, research shows maintaining a fitness habit or routine for 68 consecutive days can help cement the activity as a routine habit. And doing so will bring major benefits: increase tendon strength, lung capacity, increase capillaries in the muscles and help muscles burn fat for energy, which helps maintain healthy weight. All of that’s important at any age, but especially helpful when we’re older so we get the most out of it every time we workout.
Make workouts convenient in busy schedules
Between work meetings, looking after kids and our ageing parents, schedules get jammed and competitive in our 40s and 50s before retirement. Prioritizing workouts to maintain consistency is essential. Treat a twice weekly class, a daily run, and strength training sessions as unmovable items on the calendar just as you would with family or work commitments. And look for easy, convenient ways to build workouts into your day.
Most clubs offer some form of on-demand, streaming content that can be accessed anywhere in the club, on the go or at home, giving us more options to stay on track if we miss a class or want to try a new activity or instructor. Look too for age-appropriate workout content – core strength training for balance, flexibility and stretches and HIIT options that can be done at your own pace and intensity level. Move123 Silver is just one option on our FOD platform helping older club members meet every need and challenge.