How to Stay Fit at Every Age and Stage of Life
You never age out of fitness.
Words By Alyssa Sybertz
We know fitness is ageless--and if you’ve ever used your age as an excuse or a reason not to exercise, we urge you to reconsider. In 2016, an 85-year-old man completed a marathon in under four hours. The oldest competitive cyclist is 108 years old and still riding. But while age is not a limiting factor in terms of what you can achieve with fitness, it should to some degree influence how you train as you age. Here, Peloton instructors reveal how changing your training through the decades can set you up for lifelong success.
In Your 20s…
“Training in your 20s is about laying the foundation and fundamentals to set yourself up for health success in the long term,” says Peloton cycling instructor Sam Yo. This is the decade in which you build and strengthen your muscular, skeletal and cardiovascular systems so that they can support you for years to come. “The perk of fitness in your 20s is that your body is near its peak functionality, so there are fewer limits on what the body has the ability to do,” explains Peloton cycling instructor Kendall Toole. For that reason, this is the time to push to your max intensity and experiment with different types of exercise to see what your body responds to best.
But while this freedom and resiliency is a strength, Toole cautions that it can also be a weakness. “Sometimes in your 20s, you focus more on the social connections and the aesthetics and less on what your body truly needs,” she says. “But movement pattern or potential overuse issues can begin in this decade, so it’s key to start making a practice of listening to your body.” How? Toole suggests a regimen that involves different forms of cross-training, such as cycling, running and bootcamp, plus beginning to practice something more restorative like yoga.
In Your 30s…
“Increased levels of stress from higher-level jobs, possibly starting a family, taking on a different routine and new priorities make the 30s where fitness routines begin to truly shift,” says Toole. Fortunately, this is also the time at which you start to understand your body better. “You are actually stronger than you used to be, even though your metabolic rate starts to drop,” Yo says. “But mentally, you have a much better idea of what you need specifically to maintain a healthy body and mind.”
In order to maintain your fitness and achieve your goals, Toole and Yo agree that establishing a routine is essential. “You might have less time to exercise because of more personal commitments, so you really need to pay attention to how you train,” Yo says. Toole recommends setting attainable goals for how often you work out and seeking out a community that will hold you accountable (the Official Peloton Members Page on Facebook is a great place to start!). “For new moms and dads, it’s a great idea to encourage your kids to join in on the workouts and create healthy, fun habits around exercise,” she says. In the meantime, continue with a mix of cross-training and restorative practice.
In Your 40s…
“At this point, it’s even more important to be consistent with your routine and utilize the spare time you have to make your workout as efficient as possible,” says Yo. As it can become more difficult to make visible gains, consistently and repeatedly moving and challenging your body becomes more important than always pushing it to burnout. “Your metabolism slows down, and it gets harder to recruit muscle fibers,” explains Yo. “So the body starts to thrive on less intense full-body workouts.”
Also key: Starting to care for your joints. “Adding more mobility into your training program really helps keep your body functioning,” says Yo. That means taking a few extra minutes to stretch before and after your workout and on off days and using tools like a foam roller to keep your body loose and promote proper alignment, which will help you avoid issues or injuries to the hips, shoulders and spine.
In Your 50s…
“A common mistake people make at this point is to succumb to the idea that fitness is no longer for you, and that’s not the case at all!” says Toole. “Hormonal changes are occurring in the body, and any movement pattern issues or other things that potentially limit movement have likely revealed themselves. But if you keep consistent with a restorative practice like yoga and really listen to your body, exercise in your 50s can be really exciting.” Toole also notes that if it’s not already, weight training becomes an even more important form of exercise to incorporate into your routine. “Strength training can significantly help with any loss in bone density and increase cardiovascular capacity,” she explains.
Just as there is a certain freedom to training in your 20s, exercise in your 50s can be freeing as well. “The clarity of why you work out is much greater at this time,” muses Yo. “What you lose physically as you get older, you gain mentally. You’re exercising purely for yourself and not to impress or uphold a superficial standard.”
In Your 60s…
“Once you reach your 60s, training can in many ways finally be focused on a proper balance of work and recovery and recognizing that they go hand in hand,” says Toole. The reason: You know what forms of exercise your body best responds to, plus you likely have more time to commit to rest and recovery (like stretching and yoga), which is critical to maintaining balance, flexibility and avoiding injuries.
The extra time earned from cutting back on work or retiring can also be used to explore different forms of fitness and even find a new activity that you enjoy. “You can really have fun with your workouts,” notes Yo, which might mean going on day hikes, completing extended road bike rides or even traveling to a yoga retreat. “For folks in this decade, fitness becomes focused on wellness, knowing your body and finding joy in movement,” says Toole.
In Your 70s…
“You never age out of fitness—I encourage people in their 70s to be bold and brave and know they are welcome at Peloton too!” says Toole. “For them, exercise should be about the relationship between physical and mental agility.” That means keeping the muscles strong with low-intensity strength training to promote balance and avoid pain, doing weight-bearing activities like dancing or walking to maintain healthy bone density and maintain or improve circulation, and enjoying rejuvenating practices like meditation to keep the mind young. This combination will ensure that you can go about your daily life safely, with decreased risk for injury and greater freedom of movement.
Toole also stresses the importance of doing at least some movement every day if you can. “As best as possible, engage in social connection while working out to make movement a part of your daily lifestyle,” she says.
Overall, sticking to a consistent exercise regimen can help mitigate many of the effects of aging, including (but not limited to) changes in heart rate, heart strength, blood pressure, bone and muscle strength, metabolism, sleep quality and mental health. The result: You’ll be healthy, happy and fit through every decade!
Writer, editor, content creator, and digital consultant with a focus on health, wellness, food, and lifestyle topics.