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Muscle strength begins to decline in our 30s as a natural part of the aging process, but there are things we can do to mitigate what can become a serious health threat. People who are physically inactive can lose as much as 5 percent of their overall muscle mass each decade after age 30. By the 60s and 70s, this growing weakness may lead to dangerous falls and fractures that decrease independence, and can even be life-threatening.
Although muscle loss is inevitable, it can be slowed down and even reversed through strength training, an important part of any senior’s health and fitness routine.
For those new to a regular exercise program, the first recommendation from any qualified fitness specialist should be to consult a healthcare provider. Talk it over with your doctor, get checked out, and make sure there are no serious physical issues that should be taken into consideration.
After your doctor gives the go-ahead, make exercise a regular part of your daily routine. The most important part of any program is consistency. Decide on a schedule, and stick to it. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day, and you will be surprised at how fast you progress. Start slowly. Bodies and muscles not used to stress take time to adjust. Participating in a fitness class is a great way to start, or working with a personal trainer who can teach proper exercise technique and/or design a specialized program just for you.
Here’s one schedule you might consider following:
Monday, Wednesday, Friday: light warm-up and stretching, followed by strength training (nautilus machines, light dumbbells, exercise bands).
Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday: walking
Sunday: stretching (or rest)
Finally, for older adults, listening to your body is important. Know when to say when. Some discomfort and soreness is expected for the first two weeks or so, but if the pain seems excessive, it may be better to cut a workout short, or take a day off to rest, than to risk an injury and be unable to exercise at all for an extended period of time.
It's never too late to get in shape.
You can do it.
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