Fit Over The Decades

I don’t workout like I did in my 20’s. Here’s what to prioritize at each stage. We know daily movement is important for health at EVERY age.

March 8, 2023

I don’t workout like I did in my 20’s. Here’s what to prioritize at each stage.

We know daily movement is important for health at EVERY age.

Teen Years

Goal: Focus on exercise and movement you like, activities that boost mood and confidence.

Only 27% of high school students get the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018). Apart from improving physical fitness, regular physical activity can positively impact emotional health. Anxiety disorders, body dysmorphia and other mood disorders are at record high levels and affect more than 40 million North Americans each year. The most at risk age is 13 to 17 year-olds, especially girls. Daily movement enhances self-esteem, improves mood and promotes a healthy body image. Parents of teenagers should encourage activities that are enjoyable and that are self-selected (important hint here). Daily movement at this age should be more about wellness, feeling good and healthy lifestyle behaviours, not about weight loss.

Fitness in Your 20s

Goal: Focus on developing healthy habits to lower your risk factors later in life. Prevention and FUN

The young adult years are a time for both personal and professional growth. The demands of finishing a degree or diploma, establishing a career and managing evolving personal relationships can make it difficult to eat well and exercise regularly. Thinking about long-term health is not necessarily at the top of the to-do list for the average twenty-something. Explore, there is so much out there and young bodies can generally do pretty much anything. Run, hike, kayak, strength train, try yoga, pilates, barre, box, martial arts, go to a variety of gyms, box, try it all. If you enjoyed team sports in high school, find recreational teams and keep at it.  It’s social and important to keep those connections. It is still a very body conscious time, so the more self confident and stress free we can be at this time, the better.

Fitness in Your 30s

Goal: Focus on regular physical activity, especially strength training for good bone health. Prevention now is key for a healthier mid-life and beyond.

Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone mass and is a leading cause of bone fractures in women over the age of 50 (National Institute of Health for Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center, 2015). While osteoporosis is typically not diagnosed until the fifth or sixth decade, bone loss and disease progression begins in our 30’s. Bone mass peaks around age 30; then bone resorption—the process of bone demineralization—begins to exceed new bone formation. Over time, this leads to bone loss. Women in their 30s should include activities like strength training. Load is crucial in building and maintaining healthy bones. Here are a few tips for selecting the right types of exercise:

  • Include resistance-training workouts in your routine. Heavier weights, rather than lighter, are better for bone health. 
  • When selecting aerobic activities, be sure to include weight-bearing activities such as stair climbing, hiking, and fitness classes several days per week. Low-impact activities such as indoor cycling and swimming are great for improving fitness, but they will not help build stronger bones to the same extent as weight-bearing exercise. If possible, include high-impact aerobic exercises such as jogging and plyometrics. This is the age to get out there!

Fit Over 40

Goal: Avoid age-related muscle loss by performing strength and resistance exercise.

Sarcopenia—the loss of muscle mass and strength—begins around age 40 and declines at a rate of 5 pounds per decade. Decreased muscle mass can reduce functional capacity, lead to unwanted weight gain as our metabolism slows and is usually the beginning of muscle imbalances associated with lower-back pain, hip and shoulder irregularities. You are not powerless in the fight to prevent muscle loss, your metabolism doesn’t have to slow down. Studies are showing this muscle loss is simply the result of lack of use. “Use it or lose it”—truth in this case. Get out the dumbbells and resistance bands, on your own or in a small group class. Keep that muscle and protect those knees and hips by staying strong and stable.

Fit Over 50

Goal: Exercise to maintain optimal health through menopause.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death and disability for both men and women. However, after menopause a woman’s risk for developing heart disease and having a heart attack dramatically increases. Researchers are not exactly sure why this occurs but believe it is related to a decrease in estrogen levels. Many women reduce their activity levels as they enter menopause, but maintaining an active lifestyle can help maintain optimal health and make this transition much easier. Exercise helps ease menopause-related symptoms. Try switching to low impact exercise at this time, keep the strength training and body weight exercise up. Incorporate Yoga and  Pilates to keep core strength and flexibility optimal.

Fit Over 60

Goal: Keep moving to prevent falls.

One out of four people over the age of 65 experience a fall each year. Among older adults, women tend to fall more often than men (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017). As we age, we tend to lose a bit of our balance unless we are regularly practicing balance and stability. Our reaction time also slows, so when we trip we have a harder time catching ourselves. Balance work and flexibility should be incorporated into all exercise programs for people over the age of 60 to reduce the risk.

Fit Over 70s, 80s and Beyond

Goal: It’s never too late to start exercising.

Perhaps your relationship with exercise has been off and on over the years. Or maybe you’ve never really had much of a relationship with exercise at all. If this is you, here is the good news: It’s never too late to start exercising. For people in their 70s and 80s, exercise can help slow the decline or ‘disability threshold’ noticeably.  This is the point where we begin to have trouble with daily activities such as bathing and dressing, often reached in our late 70s and early 80s, it can be delayed by maintaining an active lifestyle. Exercise programs incorporating movement patterns that mimic activities of daily life should be prioritized in this season of life. Exercises that require multiple movement patters will also strengthen cognitive health.

Exercise positively impacts one’s health during each stage of life. So, whether you’re 19 or 99, be sure to make exercise a priority.


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