"Use it or lose it" is right on target when it comes to slowing the aging process. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, a physically active 60-year-old woman can achieve the same fitness level as an inactive 40-year-old woman. Women over age 60 can look and feel years younger by performing exercises that burn fat, reduce coronary risk factors, increase stamina and flexibility and maintain bone and muscle strength.
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Aerobic Activity for Weight Loss
Unfortunately, gaining weight and the inability to lose weight increases after age 60. Aging leads to loss of muscle mass, which, in turn, slows down your body's metabolic rate, adding unwanted pounds. Aerobic activity ramps up your heart rate, burns fat and promotes cardiovascular health. If you haven't done so already, start with 30 minutes daily of any cardio exercise. Brisk walking, tennis, swimming, biking and dancing fit the bill, but get an all-clear from your physician first.
Developing Muscle Strength
Muscles not only tend to lose strength and flexibility but also take longer to respond in your 60s than in your 20s. As your muscles shrink and lose mass, they lose tone and become stiff and sore. Routine tasks, such as opening jars or carrying grocery bags, may become more difficult as you hit your 60s. Strength training can help retain and maintain lost muscle, improve your metabolism and ward off obesity and diabetes -- significant health issues for women over age 60. The National Institute on Aging recommends low-impact strength training exercises with light dumbbells or ankle weights, including repetitive arm raises and side leg raises.
Generally, as women age, changes in tendons and ligaments occur, decreasing flexibility and restricting joint movements. Decreased joint range of motion can impede your ability to perform simple tasks, including walking, writing, housekeeping and even breathing. Dr. Karl Knopf, a consultant for the National Institutes on Health and author of "Stretching for 50+," suggests a variety of basic stretching exercises such as head and shoulder rolls, wrist and ankle circles and movements that mimic chopping wood.
Bone Building Exercises
As the aging process progresses, bones lose mass, density and mineral content, becoming fragile and more prone to fractures. Dr. Mitchell Krucoff, author of "Healing Moves," notes that menopause can cause a significant drop in estrogen, hastening the loss of bone mass by up to 20 percent. With a reduction of bone mass, osteoporosis can develop, leading to hip fractures and a slumped back in women. To reduce bone deterioration, Krucoff recommends two to three 30-minute workouts weekly of resistance training exercises with 10- to 20-lb. weights, including biceps curls, lunges and knee raises. For vitamin D's extra bone-building boost, try exercising in the sunshine -- and don't forget the sunscreen.
- "ACSM Fitness Book"; American College of Sports Medicine; 1998
- WomenFitness.net: Health and Fitness Needs Of Women at 50+
- National Institute on Aging: Sample Exercises - Strength
- "Stretching for 50+"; Karl Knopf, M.D.; 2004
- "Healing Moves"; Mitchell Krucoff, M.D.; 2000
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Effects of Aging