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Age-Appropriate Exercise Programs

May 16, 2014 - Tony DiCosta
Do you still spend money like you did when you were a teenager? Back then, your idea of a good investment might well have been spending your entire week's pay on a pair of designer jeans for the hot date you had coming up on Saturday night. (Actually, maybe not such a bad investment, looking back!) But as you got older, your idea of a good investment of a week's pay should have (hopefully) changed.

In a similar way, your exercise program should reflect the changing realities of your present biological age. Here is what I mean: As a teenager (or twenty-something) your fitness program may have consisted of whatever training was required for the sport you were involved in at high school or college. And, being young, you really did not need much more than that. The training was most likely quite intense, long in duration and short on concern for your body. Which was fine because you were young, strong and had the armor-plated recuperative powers of youth.

After that, with the onset, for many, of career and family obligations, if you worked out at all it was probably by running or gym work. And later, maybe a Jane Fonda or Richard Simmons video or two (wearing the now-embarrassing outfits that era was famous for). But, for the most part, your workouts remained an extension of your youthful training practices which paid little heed to the less bullet-proof nature of your new pressed-for-time circumstances. Yet, you were still young enough that your body was able to shrug off any ill effects.

In your thirties and forties, if you continued your exercise habits you had probably begun to experience the joint and muscle damage that occurs when youthful training programs are deployed to an aging platform (your body). And if you were one of those who did not exercise, the accumulating insults of disuse and aging likely caused a plethora of their own “issues” ranging from weight gain (“middle age spread”) to muscle loss to a kind of general stiffness and lack of energy arising from inactivity.

So where does that leave you? Well, you either need to begin a good program or you need to change your existing one to reflect a more long-term strategy—one that will keep you in shape throughout your (later) years without extracting an unacceptable toll of its own on your physical resources.

Which leads us back to the question I posed in my previous column: How do we choose from among the many fitness options available to us, competing rabidly for our exercise time (and dollar)? Being able to make those choices wisely will depend on how well we understand what it is that our aging bodies really need. That is what will help us to put together a proper, age-appropriate exercise program. And that will be the topic of the next column.


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