At 60, am I overdoing the workouts?

Jane mugshot for JQAI am 60 and when I go to cir­cuit classes I seem to be as fit as lots of 20 year olds. The exer­cise makes me feel good, but am I in real­ity doing too much? If I was 73 what would your advice be?

If you are a reg­u­lar life-​long exer­ciser, you prob­ably ARE fit­ter than a lot of 20 year olds! Disturbingly the latest gov­ern­ment fig­ures tell us that nearly half of young men aged 16 to 24 fall short of min­imum levels of activ­ity for health (that’s 30 minutes of mod­er­ate exer­cise five days a week).

Can you over-​do it with exer­cise as you get older? I would say in gen­eral no – but I have some spe­cific cau­tions. Ageing does take its toll on our bod­ies. By age 60, in the­ory you will be los­ing about 1% a year of your heart and lung power, muscle strength and bone mass (women can lose nearer 6% a year of bone), and up to 4% of muscle power. Joints get stiffer, and as our nervous sys­tems slow down we lose reac­tion speed, bal­ance and agil­ity, co-​ordination skills and so on.

Depressed? Don’t be: by doing reg­u­lar exer­cise you will have lessened or even reversed ALL of these age-​related changes. Indeed, research has shown us that eighty-​somethings can “reju­ven­ate” their bod­ies by 10 to 20 years when they do reg­u­lar workouts! Latest sci­entific think­ing also backs the view that while joints do degen­er­ate with age, mod­er­ate activ­ity or sport does NOT wear them out.

Now for my words of cau­tion. You can­not stop your body becom­ing more vul­ner­able to injury or slow­ing down in cer­tain ways. So play safe. In par­tic­u­lar:
• do longer warm-​ups (12 to 15 minutes) before any heavy train­ing
• spend more time stretch­ing after your warm-​up and again at the end of the workout
• listen to your body and don’t ignore pain: dis­cover the cause and rest the injured part thor­oughly (older tis­sue takes longer to mend)
• Keep tabs on your under­ly­ing health, check­ing blood pres­sure, body mass, cho­les­terol and (in some cases) your bone dens­ity. Any of these could alert you to a silent health prob­lem and the need to alter your workouts accord­ingly.

If you do have health con­di­tions, dis­eases or dis­ab­il­it­ies you will prob­ably have to fol­low extra cau­tions, par­tic­u­larly if you are tak­ing med­ic­a­tions.

As for look­ing for­ward to your sev­en­ties, let your body guide you! The vet­eran ath­lete Charlie Williams is an inspir­a­tional ama­teur sprinter; at age 73 he was run­ning 100 metres in 13.6 seconds! The US male mara­thon record time at age 73 is 3hrs 13 min. If at 73 you’re still hav­ing fun keep­ing fit, why stop?

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