Isaac Newton had it right – an object at rest tends to stay at rest. After years of putting your nose to the grindstone, the act of sitting back and relaxing sounds more like a well-earned reward than anything else.
But your 60s and beyond are no time to pack it in completely. Your body needs motion to stay limber, fit and in prime condition to keep doing the things you love. That means it’s always the perfect time to make regular exercise a healthy habit and get fit at 60.
No, you don’t need to work as hard as you did in your 20s. You definitely don’t need expensive equipment or accessories. And it’s absolutely never too late to start. Even the smallest steps now can result in huge payoffs later.
Read on to see why regular exercise is so important later in life, plus how to get started and stay motivated.
What changes start occurring when you reach 60?
Growing older is inevitable, as are all of the changes that your body develops later in life. One of those changes involves your metabolism – how your body breaks down food and sugars for energy.
As you age, your body needs less energy to get around. Changes to your hormones also spur the body to decrease muscle mass and devote more resources to upping stores of body fat.
Your body’s other systems and organs are changing as well. Your heart starts to lose efficiency as you age, needing to work more for the same payoff. Other organs like your lungs and kidneys also lose some of their oomph – especially in a body that doesn’t get around.
So, when you combine the effects of aging and being inactive, you put yourself right in the sights of some of aging’s worst enemies:
- Coronary artery disease
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
Fortunately, introducing a healthy amount of exercise into your daily routine can give your body the advantage it needs to help stop these diseases and conditions from setting up shop.
Getting in shape at 60 and beyond
The key to getting fit at 60 is to start with the activity and pace that feels right for you. By starting slow and ramping up to a regular routine, you can start feeling some tremendously positive effects:
- Increased energy levels – The more you use your body on a regular basis, the more energized you feel throughout the day.
- A boost in mental sharpness – When you work out, you have more blood and oxygen flowing through your system, giving your brain more juice to pull from.
- Positive changes in mood – Doing something positive and fulfilling (like exercising) can have a big effect on how you feel. That’s why doctors recommend regular exercise to help manage depression, anxiety and stress.
- Added balance, strength and flexibility – Working out keeps your reflexes quick and your limbs nimble, helping you to avoid falls and injuries.
- Resilience against chronic illnesses – Getting active can help keep illnesses like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes at bay or help you manage them better than with medicine alone.
Of course, these results can happen at any age when you begin and stick with an exercise program that works for you. All the more reason to get started as soon as possible!
How to start getting fit – tips that apply to all ages
Ready to get going? Here are some steps to get moving:
- Meet with your doctor – Yep, you hear this with any mention of starting a new exercise routine. But there are several great reasons why doing this is really important.
- First, your doctor can let you know what exercises your body can and can’t do – at least right now.
- Second, your doctor will give you a good idea of how much activity your body can take at a time. This way, you won’t overdo it the first time or the hundredth time.
- Finally, your doctor can make some excellent suggestions on the type of exercise that’s right for what you want to achieve, along with tips on how to make your diet work perfectly in sync.
- Start slow – Needless to say, you shouldn’t start marathon training right out of the gate. Start with doing small things to ramp up your energy level. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park a little farther away than usual. Get up and walk around every commercial break. Actions like these will help warm up your body for regular movement.
- Walk this way – Walking is an ideal way to start exercising. All you need is a good pair of shoes. Walk around the block, hit a nearby trail, dust off the treadmill – just walk at an easy, steady pace. Start with small goals, like 10 minutes a day a few times a week. Once you’re in the groove, up the time.
- Stay stretched and hydrated – Before and after you walk, make sure to stretch out a little bit so you stay loose. Also, bring a bottle of water with you so you can stay hydrated. A post-workout glass of water or two also makes for a nice cool down.
- Getting used to activity – Your body might take a little time to get used to your new routine. Don’t be surprised if you feel some soreness and stiffness as you get started – it’s completely natural and should fade away the more active you become. The same goes for your balance and steadiness. You might be a bit off-kilter at first, but that’s also normal as you age. Just go slow, take it easy and let your body get up to speed.
- Get strong – Once you’re in a good rhythm, add in some easy strength exercises that use gravity and resistance to help build muscle. Healthline has some excellent basic exercises to choose from. Pick out some favorites to start with and mix them into your routine.
- Bring a friend – When you go for a walk, take someone with you! Spouse, family, friends – the more people you share your activities with, the more motivation and support you’ll get to keep going.
All said, the ideal goal is the one that’s set out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity a week. That comes out to be around 20 minutes a day – not bad at all! Again, don’t feel like you need to reach this right away – take it slow at first and build your way up. Eventually, you’ll find the activity and exercise mix that works for you. And once you do, you’re well on your way to getting fit at 60!
Start with a Medicare annual wellness visit
The perfect time to talk with your doctor about starting a new exercise routine is during your Medicare annual wellness visit – included with your Part B coverage. This way, you can develop an activity plan that’s tailored directly to what your body needs. Plus, you’ll get information about your body’s current state and what you can do to stay healthy.
Getting in shape with your Medicare plan
If you’re enrolled in a Medicare plan, you might have access to resources that will help you get (and stay) fit. Check out our blog post about the types of fitness benefits Medicare plans can offer. For example, plans can include a fitness club membership or home exercise kits that will help you work out at home – all at no extra cost.
Even better, most HealthPartners Medicare plans include a fitness benefit.