All medical research indicates that we should all be exercising regularly for our entire lives. But I am sometimes asked whether a given individual should begin exercise after age 60, even he/she has always previously been sedentary. And my answer is yes, beginning regular exercise is advisable for two reasons. 1) Science has shown that, even if begun late in life, one can increase longevity, and 2) You can increase your functional capacity, meaning that most work can be done with less effort. Extra bonuses include a means to avoid falls and injuries, combat depression, and many others, as detailed in my latest book, Health Tips, Myths and Tricks.
HOW SHOULD ONE BEGIN AN EXERCISE PROGRAM?
Before starting, one should check with his/her physician, and if not done recently, undergo a general checkup to detect any elevated physical risks.
The easiest way is to begin by daily walking, gradually increasing the distances and pace each day, extending initially from 15 minutes to 1 hour, and walking to the point where one becomes mildly short of breath, but stopping if developing chest pain or other symptoms such as dizziness. If unfavorable weather is a challenge, an indoor treadmill can be substituted. After doing this for a period of 2 to 6 weeks, I would suggest adding upper body exercises such as weight or resistance training. Additional activities such as biking and swimming can be included as desired. These combined exercises (sessions lasting 30-60 minutes each) should be continued for at least three times weekly on a permanent basis. Healthy adults should aim for weekly totals of at least 150 minutes of moderate exertion or 75 minutes of vigorous exertion, or an equivalent combination of both. That doesn’t have to be all at one time, though. For example, brisk walking for 30 minutes, five days a week meets these guidelines. Aerobic (vigorous) exercise can even be performed in short blocks of time, such as several walk breaks spread throughout the day. You’ll get the most from your workouts from such combined exercising intensity for best health and fitness goals.
One question is frequently posed: Can one over-exert? The answer is generally no. The biggest problem is under-exertion, and the best way to counter this is to check your pulse rate periodically during periods of peak effort. For best conditioning, this rate should equal at least 70% of the maximum rate achievable for age. This maximum is 220 less age. For example, for a 60 year old individual, the maximum heart rate would be 220 less 60, or 160, and 70% of that would be approximately 110 to 120, which is the target rate that should be sought at least intermittently during each exercise session. The pulse rate can be checked either manually by feeling the pulse in the neck or wrist, or through the use of a mechanical device, widely available though various retailers.
Another question is whether it’s OK to became tired, and is there any difference between becoming fatigued or tired. Since these are both subjective feelings, there is no practical difference between the two. If one exercises to a proper level, he/she should experience at least a moderate level of fatigue.
I have always advised: Even if regular exercise does not add years to your life, it will certainly add life to your years!