Is it too late for you to start exercising? Is there a certain point beyond which extreme workouts are no longer possible? How do things change when you leave your 20’s for your 30’s? What should you know about your body so that you can best train it to maximize gains and performance? These are the kinds of questions people who treat health and fitness as a life long goal have to ask, and that people who are only in it to lose 10lbs never consider. Health and fitness is a life long passion, and today we know that exercise can not only make you feel better, but even reverse aging’s effects. As such, we have to ask: how does your age affect your workout routines?
Of course answering such questions would take an entire book, not just a blog post, so at best I can only give you an overview of what each decade holds and what approach you should take when approaching fitness. However, if ever in doubt, consult a physician. Your individuality means that there might always be factors at play that these generalities cannot take into account; when it comes to previous health conditions or injuries, be smart and ask a doctor.
Your body in your 20’s is bursting with human growth hormone (HGH) and puberty is a time when everything is in overload. As such, teenagers are able to realize the most miraculous transformations, going from lean to built with such speed and facility that older folks can only look on with envy. Testosterone is at an all-time high, and teenagers are consequently able to realize almost any goal they desire. Whether they wish to bulk up for football by hitting the weights or develop athletic ability for running, swimming or any other goal, this is the time when you can do it. Joints are at their most supple, flexibility at an all-time high, and the sky seems to be the limit. Push yourself, enjoy yourself, because as soon as you hit your twenties, things are going to change.
20’s: Power + Agility
The riot of hormones from your teens has begun to subside, and though you are still charged with HGH and testosterone, this is when you begin to develop more power and the ability to execute more intense, heavy exercise. These hormones fuel your ability to execute explosive sprints, jumps and swings, and this is your best time to build sheer muscular power (this is the ability to generate strength quickly, as opposed to simple muscular strength which represents the ability to generate force with no time restrictions). If you’re eating right, you should be hitting the weights and doing programs like P90X in order to exploit this time when your potential for growing is still unlimited. Extreme cardio can wait till later, when your metabolism begins to slow down.
30’s: Strength + Stamina
When you hit your 30’s, you’re truly in your prime. Think about the top sport’s stars, the men who master triathalons, where strength and endurance are now properly harnessed. By the time you hit your 30’s your physiological peak is now past, and all those hormone levels are starting to decline. However, your improved knowledge can allow you to train smarter and compensate for that. Endurance also grows at this point, due to your ability to continue to extend your lactate threshold, allowing you to exercise for longer at higher levels of intensity. While you may no longer be as explosive as you were in your 20’s, you may actually be stronger, having the ability to develop your overall strength. You now need to start focusing more on your cardio, your flexibility, and can no longer take the health of your joints for granted. Exercises here like the Insanity Workout will test you but help you keep in fantastic shape.
40’s: Flexibility + Strength
Now your body is truly beginning to slow down. You can no longer recover like you used to in your 20’s, and your joints need active attention and care. Instead of punishing your body in the gym, looking to push as hard as you can till you fail, you now need to begin caring for you body, looking to nurture and push it without courting injury or pain. Coordination begins to diminish, and your heart begins to slow. What’s more, this is the phase in your life when you begin to lose muscle. Wisdom here is paramount, because simply seeking to emulate the 20 or even 30 year old’s routines will result in trouble. Instead, you need to become smarter, and focus on combating the aging process. Yoga is an excellent thing to start, because it actively encourages flexibility and keeping your joints healthy. You should start lifting more weights so as to fight muscle loss.
50’s +: Balance + Mobility
Now you’re exercising to push back the collapse of your body. In these later years, you still want to look good, but more importantly you’re focused on maintaining a higher quality of life. Joints and flexibility need serious, active care, and your strength will continue to wane unless you maintain a good regimen of weight lifting. Exercise is perhaps the most important factor in holding on to your youthful vigor, and where before it was something you did to simply enjoy yourself, now it’s a question of survival. The focus here should be on weight lifting, on flexibility, and on maintaining your sense of balance. You should exercise consistently but not brutally, should push your body but be aware of how long it needs to recover, and focus primarily on remaining active inside and outside the gym.
So there you have it folks–what each decade’s strengths and weaknesses (or lack thereof) are. Is it ever too late to begin exercising? Of course not. In fact, exercise is the key to maintaining health right into your old age. Does that mean that folks in their 50’s should be trying their hand at Insanity? Probably not–it’s intense enough to challenge 30 year old’s, but again, your mileage may vary depending on your healthy and personal fitness. Perhaps the sheer challenge will motivate you to get up and move. Remember, our bodies respond to how we treat them, so with excellent nutrition, plenty of sleep, lots of exercise and a careful focus on working on our strengths and seeking to hold back the ravages of age, there is no reason you can’t be healthy and active right into your 90’s.