There are certainly more risks associated with starting an exercise program at the age of 60 compared to 20 years. As we age, we begin to lose lean muscle mass. It's not necessarily a natural part of the aging process, but simply the reality of us slowing down. It's been estimated that for every decade after the age of 25, we lose approximately 5 percent of our lean tissue. That may not seem like a lot at first, but that's the equivalent of a 200-pound male losing 10 pounds of muscle every 10 years. As we lose muscle, we slow our metabolism as well. And, as our metabolism slows and we continue to eat as usual, the result is weight gain. It's a vicious cycle that we have some control over. It's never too late to start exercising, but before you do, you should consult with your healthcare provider and seek medical clearance. Once you've received the okay to start, it is generally safe for healthy people to begin by exercising, such as walking three days a week for 30 minutes for the first few weeks. If you're not able to dedicate 30 consecutive minutes to exercise, aim for three, 10-minute exercise sessions throughout the day. Any exercise is better than no exercise. After a few weeks, you'll notice your stamina improve and you'll then be able to increase the duration, frequency, and intensity of your exercises. By the fourth week, increase by one day or the duration of the activity should increase by 10-15 minutes per exercise session. It's also important to monitor exercise intensity periodically throughout each workout. Healthy individuals should aim to achieve an exercise heart rate between 70-85 percent of maximal heart rate after the first few months of activity. Older adults may need to start at an intensity level less than 70 percent. Many people don't understand the difference doing a low-intensity versus a high-intensity exercise routine. The general rule of thumb is the lower the level of exercise intensity, the more frequently it can occur. For example, walking on a level surface for 30 minutes with an exercise heart rate less than 60-65 percent of heart rate max is less intense than completing 30-minutes of hill training, which often can take a person's heart rate to 85 percent of maximal heart rate. Walking, therefore, is an activity that can be performed on most days of the week without undue fatigue. Moderate to high-intensity exercise often requires more physical effort and has an even greater impact on the body systemically. Examples include strength training, athletic conditioning, and endurance events. This type of exercise requires more time for the body to rest and recover, and therefore, should be performed less frequently. It's important to note that each person has a different tolerance to exercise and a different ability to recover. Therefore, exercise programs must be specific and unique to each person. To improve cardio respiratory fitness, you need to engage in aerobic activities that increase your heart rate continuously for a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes, 3-5 days a week. Health-related improvements can be achieved with as little as three, 30-minute exercise sessions per week. If your goal is weight loss, aerobic exercise isn't just important, it's essential. Losing weight requires that you burn more calories than you consume on a daily basis. Therefore, weight loss may require you to exercise longer or more frequently to achieve weight loss goals. Healthy and sustainable weight loss requires 150-200 or more minutes of exercise each week. Strength training is also important for building and maintaining lean muscle mass. Two to three strength training sessions per week is all that is required to achieve gains in strength. This can be accomplished in as little as 20-30 minutes per session and should include exercises for each major muscle group, including the core stabilizers muscles. Finally, any exercise program should include adequate time for stretching. Flexibility can and should be developed at all ages. The main factor in loss of flexibility as we age is due to changes that occur in the connective tissues of our body.
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