Exercise is not just for body-conscious people in their 20s or 30s who want to look good in the latest fashion. Exercise will improve both the health and happiness of everyone. So get over the feeling of self-consciousness, regardless of your age, lose those inhibitions and get moving.
Everybody is different. For example, younger women may find that they have more cellulite on their hips and thighs than other individuals entering middle age; similarly the thickness of a man's waist can be less about age, more to do with lifestyle and intensity of exercise.
Age is no barrier
Physical activity does not dependent on age. So keep doing moderate exercise regularly.
People in their 20s
At this age, you should regularly be doing some moderate and vigorous exercises at least three times a week for about 20-30 minutes. The remaining days go for a walk, climb the stairs, anything to elevate your heart rate a bit. Plan to do muscle-strengthening exercises at least twice a week.
30s and 40s
At this point, you need to start getting more systematic about your physical routine. Grace and bursts of speed don't come as naturally as they once did. Women in particular need to focus on strength training — two to three times a week — in order to build muscle mass and preserve bone, which otherwise begins to get thinner. Make aerobics an everyday routine.
50s and 60s
Now it becomes more important to do exercises that address your strength, flexibility and balance as well as cardiovascular requirements. Cardiovascular disease is still the biggest threat, so keep that heart rate up. Maintaining your weight takes more effort.
70s and beyond
There is no reason not to do aerobics or strength training at this age. The greatest benefit often occurs in those who are frail or suffer from such conditions as emphysema, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and arthritis. Flexibility and balance training are more important than ever at this age. The focus should be on all-round fitness and toning using a programme that accentuates strength, stamina and endurance. It is better to make exercise an integral part of your routine early in life.
Exercise for men and women
It's true that men and women come from two different planets, but how different are we when we exercise?
This may come as a surprise but men and women are structured very similarly. The biggest difference between the sexes is physiological: the ability to generate power in the muscles [muscle fibres]. This power generation has no significance, however, for the average individual who wants to exercise to keep fit and healthy.
Many women believe lifting weights will transform themselves into Amazons with big, highly-defined muscles. This is a myth, as very few women actually have the hormonal levels that will allow them to develop large, defined muscles. The second misconception is that "toning" in women is synonymous with a large amount of aerobic training, which is presumed to keep the individual "small", control weight and maintain fitness. This regime has no scientific basis, however. The idea of toning seems to involve not putting in much effort [intensity], but rather doing a great deal of work [volume] - many sets, many repetitions. The training principles for men and women are universal regardless of the training programme.
Most of us have sedentary jobs and work takes up a significant part of the day. Here's what you can do to increase your physical activity during the work day.
- Brainstorm ideas with a co-worker while taking a walk.
- Stand while talking on the telephone.
- Walk down the hall to speak with someone rather than using the telephone.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Or get-off a few floors early and take the stairs the rest of the way.
- Stay at hotels with fitness centres or swimming pools and use them while on business trips.
- Take a jump rope along in your suitcase when you travel. Jump and do calisthenics in your hotel room.
- Join a fitness centre or a gym near your job. Work out before or after work to avoid rush-hour traffic.
- Schedule exercise time on your business calendar and treat it as any other important appointment.
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