Tips for a Healthy Workout Routine as You Age

Your physical abilities decrease with aging. From muscle-related diminishes (like strength and stamina) to decreased speed and coordination, you may find that normal, everyday activities — tending to your garden or carrying groceries into your house — are trickier than they used to be. 

For today’s blog post, let’s consider why these health declines occur as well as tips for a healthy workout routine as you age.

The primary reason for changes in your physical abilities is decreased muscle mass. Not much decline occurs between ages 20 and 40. However, after age 40, there can be a decline of one to two percent per year in lean body mass and up to five percent per year in strength. 

This loss in muscle mass relates to a smaller number of muscle fibers as well as a decrease in fiber size. Once the fibers become too small, they die. Fast-twitch muscle fibers — those responsible for muscle speed — shrink and die more quickly than others. 

Additionally, the ability for muscles to repair themselves also decreases with age. This change is credited to a decrease in hormones and growth factors, such as testosterone, estrogen, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), growth hormone, and insulin-like growth factor. 

Changes in your coordination, though, are related to the brain and nervous system.

When you’re balancing arms full of books or keeping a hot cup of coffee steady, multiple brain centers are firing. The wiring, or white matter that connects these different regions, is pivotal. Unfortunately, most people over the age of 60 who eat a normal, American diet and don’t exercise often enough have tiny “ministries” in their white matter, which disrupt the connections between brain centers. For instance, the link between the frontal lobe (responsible for movement) and the cerebellum (responsible for in-the-moment corrections to movement) may be obstructed.

Finally, dopamine-producing cells also decrease with age, which reduces both movement and coordination. This shift leads to abnormalities in movement often associated with Parkinson’s disease, such as tremors or rigidity. 

So how can you maintain a healthy workout routine and improve your strength and coordination?

To start, it’s more important than ever to exercise regularly as you age. You should even increase the amount of time you spend exercising to help make up for shifts in hormones and lost muscle mass. Here are five additional tips to consider:

  1. Add gentle, aerobic exercises to your routine, like swimming, biking, or brisk walking. Aim for at least 30 minutes per session, five days each week.
  2. Focus on strength, balance, and flexibility by incorporating weightlifting, yoga, and/or Pilates into your weekly schedule.
  3. Adopt a Mediterranean diet, including poultry, fish, nuts, beans, avocados, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. 
  4. Talk to your primary care physician about any problems that are interfering with your workout routine. Issues like orthopedic injuries or eye problems can be treated.
  5. Get enough sleep! You can actually improve your brain function overnight as your cells communicate and reorganize. You need at least seven hours of sleep for optimal rest.

Contact Dr. Asha Tota-Maharaj, MD at Platinum Primary Care with all your healthcare needs. Come visit us at 2071 Dundee Drive in Winter Park.