After six decades of wear and tear, it’s natural to experience a level of decline now. One common change in your cardiovascular system is that your blood vessels and arteries stiffen, which causes your heart to work harder to pump blood through them. This can increase your risk of high blood pressure (known as hypertension) and other cardiovascular problems.
Added to this equation is your bones: They shrink in strength and density, making them weaker and prone to fracture. (Believe it or not, you may even become a bit shorter due to vertebral disc fluid loss and poor posture.) Your muscles continue to lose strength, endurance and flexibility – factors that can affect your stability and coordination.
The biggest misconception with exercise as you age
Thankfully, Adam Upshaw, a professor of exercise science at Niagara College and chair-elect at the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, has some inspired advice. “One of the biggest misconceptions is that, as you age, you can no longer exercise the way you used to when you were younger,” says Upshaw. Although he concedes that there is some truth in that, Upshaw is quick to say that the bigger factor that causes your body to deteriorate is a sedentary lifestyle. We often quit the healthy activities we did in our youth. “Why can’t you work out in your 60s, 70s and even 80s?” he says. “It’s nonsense to think you have to stop moving – in fact, that’s actually the bigger problem.”
How you should be exercising if you’re 60 and older
If you’ve remained active and continued to exercise throughout middle age, you know your body well enough at this point to recognize your strengths, weaknesses and natural limitations and can keep doing what you love. To keep on this healthy path, Upshaw suggests adding exercise strategies that will help improve function in your daily life, too. “As you age, your body tends to shrink,” he says. “It’s like you close in on yourself: Your shoulders slouch, you get smaller in stature, and you lose height.” And the older you get, the worse it can become.
Upshaw suggests that refocusing on specific extension exercises, which will essentially open your body back up and improve your range of motion. “Extension exercises work muscles that oppose the muscles that are continuously being worked in everyday activities,” he says, “so work on your shoulders, wrists, hips, glutes, back and ankles to improve posture and avoid injury.” Need inspiration? Read up on how this Canadian athlete finds joy in exercise.