Your guide to building a workout regime that works for you if you’re in your 60s 

As you enter your 60s, you may well be adjusting your exercise habits for your age. However, the changes may not be as drastic as you think. "No good fitness trainer will recommend particular exercises for particular ages," says personal trainer Julia Buckley. "It totally depends on the individual."

However, your priorities may have shifted, with concerns like brain function at the forefront when thinking about your fitness post-60. Stability and mobility may not have been as much on your radar earlier in life, but have become priorities, together with looking after cardiovascular health. 

Fitness after 60 is in many ways simply continuing to care for your body. "Everyone needs to take care of strength, cardiovascular fitness and mobility to live our best lives," says Julia. "That’s as true in our 60s as it is in our younger, or indeed older, years." Equally, you might be at an advantage when getting fit in your 60s, as you could have more free time than ever before, whether that’s through retirement, going part-time or not having children to take care of anymore as they’ve flown the coop. 

How to get in shape in your 60s 

The first thing is confidence, according to Julia. "Nowadays, walk into any gym, or the starting line of a marathon, and you’ll see loads of people in their 60s. People really don’t need to be thinking 'I can’t do this or I should be doing that' because of their age - it's not too late," she says. 

But gym, outdoors or home workouts? The good news is that it’s entirely up to you. "A lot of people find that exercising outdoors really helps lift their mood, while others enjoy the me-time of working out at home," says Julia. "A mix of different types of exercise helps keep it interesting and is also best for overall physical health."

Ultimately, it’s all about creating a fitness routine that works for you. And if you find yourself taking exercise seriously for the first time in your life in your 60s, remind yourself that this shouldn't be a barrier. "It’s never too late to see improvements," encourages Julia.  

How much exercise you should do in your 60s?

Julia doesn’t like suggesting a prescriptive number of exercise sessions per week and instead stresses the value of getting a balance. "Ideally, you should include cardio, strength and mobility exercises in your week," she says. This might look like a thrice-weekly routine, integrating a brisk walk in nature, or a home workout using your bodyweight and a yoga session with poses to aid mobility. 

How to reduce likelihood of injury 

"Avoiding injury, for any age group, comes back to being aware of and mindful of good technique, getting enough rest, correcting any imbalances and doing mobility training," says Julia. "Don’t just do exercises without thinking about your posture and how you’re moving. If you can, get a good trainer who gives lots of cues on correct form and be sure to listen to them."

Ultimately, it’s a case of listening to your own body. "Stop at the first sign of pain and rest when you’re tired or feeling unwell," adds Julia. Also, remember that many of us might be stronger on one side of the body than the other, so be mindful of these imbalances and work on strengthening without straining your weaker side. 

How exercise boosts brain function post-60 

"Staying active is great for mental health at all ages and can help keep us mentally sharp as we get older," says Julia. "For brain function, any kind of exercise will be effective." A 2020 study published in the Brain Plasticity journal found that low and high-intensity exercises improve brain health in different ways (low-intensity for improving information processing and attention span, while high-intensity aids emotional function). Therefore, getting a mix of both is key. "Moves that challenge our balance and coordination are thought to be particularly effective," says Julia. 

Exercising postmenopause 

Exercising during and after the menopause can require a shift in habits – but, once again, it’s about how you feel at the time and what your level, needs and goals are. Julia has trained a great number of clients going through or have been through the menopause. "Some women go through this time excelling at physical performance, others find their energy levels are lower and need to dial back a bit," says Julia. "Listen to your body and don’t put too much pressure on yourself."

The best exercises to try in your 60s: 

Yoga, stability & balancing exercises 

"Any exercises that challenge your stability will help," says Julia, even just practising balancing on one leg can be great for beginners, or working up to being able to sit down and stand up from a chair on one leg without using arms to help. 

Julia also recommends various yoga poses, including the tree and warrior ones. Not keen on yoga? Try dance, which is a win for brain health, because it requires "a lot of coordination and usually balance, too", says Julia. You can also venture out into other stability exercises, such as single leg squats and kicking moves.  

Cardiovascular exercises 

As for cardio? "Anything is good really," says Julia. "A lot of people find walking or running great." If you’re looking for exercises specifically to boost mental health, Julia says she "mostly just recommends people do what they enjoy, such as aerobics, circuits or crossfit". 

Strength training 

Many bodyweight exercises are great for building muscle – and just as good as weighted moves – when it comes to toning areas like the upper arms and stomach, and improving overall fitness levels. It depends on the exercise and the individual. Compound exercises – which activate muscles across different areas of the body – are key. Try press-ups (great for the arms, chest and core), and lunge and curls (brilliant for legs, bum, core and arms). 

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