“I’m too old to get back into shape” is a common excuse for expanding waistlines and withering muscles – but the evidence for this alibi is surprisingly thin. Perhaps you’ve heard that the typical person steadily loses muscle mass after age 30, with losses accelerating after 50 – but that’s because these people aren’t training their muscles. A study conducted by the University of Maryland found that women ages 65 to 73 who follow a strength-training program added just as much muscle as women ages 23 to 28. A study at the university of Oklahoma found similar results for middle-aged men.
Or you’ve heard that metabolism slows as we age, making it harder to burn calories – but it turns out this decline is modest at best. Researchers at Germany’s Justus-Liebig-University determined that 60- to 90-year-old men burn just eight fewer calories per day for each year they age due to slowing metabolism… women, just four calories fewer.
Good news: That spiral can be reversed by devoting just a few hours a week to exercise, and you don’t need to join a gym or buy expensive exercise equipment, though a few small pieces of workout gear will be helpful. You’ll notice a positive difference in your body within just a few weeks.
Start with simples, low-impact exercises, but steadily increase their difficulty. Each session should be challenging but not grueling – it’s good to feel sore the following morning – bad to feel hobbled.
Start with the first exercise and do sets of 15 to 20 reps, taking two to four minutes of rest between each set.
Goal: Complete three of these exercise sessions per week
Squat: Stand straight with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your toes pointed at 10:00 and 2:00. Taking a deep breath, brace your abs then bend your knees and push your hips back to assume a sitting position, only without the chair. Extended your arms forward as needed to maintain your balance. Keep your spine straight, core tight and chest up throughout – imagine you’re lowering your torso toward a spot directly between your heels. Stop when your thighs are parallel to the floor, slowly return to the standing position.
Lunge: Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart, then take a big step forward with your right foot. Slowly kneel until your left knee touching the floor, then slowly return to standing without lifting or shifting either foot. After your knees are straight, step back with your right foot to resume the initial starting position. Do sets with the left foot stepping forward, too.
Dumbbell Goblet Squat: Do the first squat exercise described, but hold a dumbbell in front of your chest. Orient the dumbbell vertically, as if it were a goblet – roughly in front of your sternum with each hand gripping one side of its top end. Start with a lightweight dumbbell, and increase the weight as needed to keep the exercise challenging.
Caution: Do not do this exercise until you can do at least three sets of 20 reps of the squats.
Next: Dumbbells of increasing weight can be added to lunges and dumbbell squats.