Exercise is crucial to a healthy lifestyle for adults of all ages. After the age of 40, though, it's time to develop, if we haven't already, a proactive strategy for healthy aging. This should include both cardiovascular activity and strength training. But what does that look like, really? Before hitting the gym or heading outside, it's helpful to have a game plan for accomplishing health goals — and we're here to help. These three exercises have specific, long-term benefits for adults over the age of 40.
Cardiovascular exercises, like swimming or a challenging walk, can improve heart health. Strength training can be used to increase bone strength. A stronger core is helpful for preventing chronic pain and providing stability to the entire body. Learn more about these exercises and their specific benefits for adults over the age of 40.
The risk of heart disease rises with age, but exercise can play an important role in protecting and strengthening the heart. Any exercise that increases heart rate helps to improve heart health and lower the risk of chronic disease. So we put cardio at the top of the list.
Cardiovascular exercises should be performed for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week, according to the American Heart Association. It generally doesn’t matter what kind of aerobic workout is being performed, as long it's enjoyable, sustainable and doesn’t come with a risk of injury. A brisk walk on a local trail or an early morning swim are great ways to strengthen the heart. We should all be getting that cardio in.
Working to strengthen abdominal muscles isn’t vanity exercise when you consider that a strong core can actually prevent injury and reduce back pain. Not to mention, when these muscles are in tip-top shape, balance and stability are improved. This connection to the greater good of balance puts core strength second on our list; second only to cardio.
An ab workout doesn’t have to include endless crunches. In fact, stay off the floor altogether if you wish. Try standing abdominal exercises like a knee cross crunch which involves bringing your knee to meet the opposite elbow while standing tall.
As we grow older, it's important to think ahead about preventing osteoporosis. In addition to a nutrient dense diet, exercise can be used to improve bone health. A 2018 research review published in Endocrinology and Metabolism found that resistance exercises were effective for improving bone mass because of the repeated stress to move or lift a heavy load.
Strength training may feel intimidating for beginners. Many local community centers and the YMCA provide a few introductory personal training sessions to new members for the express purpose of helping them to become comfortable with the equipment and to set up a sustainable routine.
When adopting any new exercise routine, it's important to listen to the body and honor any existing limitations. Don’t push yourself too hard or too fast. Instead, slowly increase the difficulty over time. If you have any questions or concerns about getting started, it is never a bad idea to have a chat with your health care provider first. So that's our top three, cardio, core strength, and resistance. We're going to work on getting them all in, too.