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Choose Your Decade, Then Choose Your Exercise


Although swimming is and always has been a very suitable exercise whatever your age, every decade of our life comes with different needs and, as you move through the various phases of your life, you can find the most suitable form of exercise for that time.

We start with the very young and work right through to the over seventies. 

There is something for everyone!

The very young

Children especially flourish with physical activity helping with better motor control and improved cognitive development. Suggestions include gymnastics, martial arts and cardio-based activities such as running around the playground or doing a sport.

  • Experts suggest that children under the age of one should be doing at least thirty minutes of tummy time while toddlers need a minimum of three hours of physical play every day.  Such play would include pulling themselves up, walking, jumping and gripping toys.
  • Over fives benefit from more intense movement with sports and exercise teaching them co-ordination as well as strengthening the muscles and bones while building aerobic capacity.

The pre-teen and teen years

Hormonal and physical changes in this age group can lead to a lack of confidence, depression or anxiety.  Exercise is a great way to boost endorphins and get rid of those feelings. 

Team sports will help teens to develop physical skills such as agility while teaching them to be a good communicator and team player.  One study by the British Medical Journal found that low-cost, fun, unstructured and social activities are the best way to increase activity in teens.

Young adults

The twenties are a great time to build on strength training as their bodies can maximize strength and power to reduce risk of weakness later in life.  When starting strength training, it is wise to work with a trainer at the beginning.  Intense cardio training is another suggestion with such training with a heart rate of over seventy five percent of its maximum helping to improve markers of cardiovascular fitness in the twenties.


The thirties

Leading up to the age of forty, you have the opportunity to improve bone mass and flexibility. 

  • Women at this age who have children will have their core, their hips and their lower back under pressure when they grow in size and shape during pregnancy.  So it becomes especially important to strengthen those areas before as well as during and after pregnancy.  Pilates is the ideal exercise to achieve this, focusing on strength and stability (especially of the internal wall) without straining and stressing the joints too much.
  • Men are not to be let off the hook!  The problem is that from the age of thirty, flexibility will begin decreasing at some one percent per annum and Pilates will work for men too, helping to stretch out the muscles while HIIT sessions can help to lock in the power of those muscles used in explosive movements.  Such muscles can be the first to decline with age.  HIIT is an acronym for High-Intensity Interval Training incorporating full body, compound exercises which are done in short intense bursts at one hundred percent of your maximum effort followed by short, sometimes active rest.



The forties

Jogging and group training is the ideal exercise for this decade and these runners are said to run faster average marathon times than their younger rivals.  During our forties, our endurance capabilities build while it is the ideal time to cut back on intensity and increase distance.  However, resistance training is still crucial to counteract testosterone declining in men and to ward off any oestrogen dips in perimenopausal women.  Try to use your body against resistance at least twice a week.  A dumb bell focused group fitness class might be the ideal solution for this age group.

Into the fifties to sixties

The worrying statistic is that around fifty percent of women and twenty percent of men will experience an osteoporosis fracture during this decade.  The solution is to try some strength training but with a trainer to help you alongside some lower impact options.  Such options include cycling and swimming.  These two will fuse cardio and strength training but without putting pressure on the joints.  

  • Regular cycling will help to prevent the expected loss of muscle mass and strength which can come with older age.
  • Swimming has been found to help reduce insulin and blood fat levels even better than walking.

Studies point to recovery being slower between exercise sessions as you age so if you can do thirty minutes of exercise daily, only do more intense workouts three times a week.

Ideas for sixty ones to seventies

Golf has been highlighted as the perfect answer for improved health at this age with the benefits including the total time spent being active. 

Continue with those regular intense workouts especially when moving quickly against resistance while focusing on working one side at a time (as with lunges or sit-ups) to challenge your balance and co-ordination.

And then the seventies and over

Your highly important mantra should be "keep on going"!  Once this age group stops moving, they can become sedentary with muscle atrophy setting.  At the same time, there is a loss of confidence in their abilities.

All types of moderate exercise are recommended so that they are engaged both physically and mentally to avoid losing any motor skills and co-ordination.  Tai Chi and Yoga provide the best combination for improving health in older adults.  It is important to keep up with exercise and activities that you enjoy.



 Kinetic Kids: Keeping Youth with Disabilities Engaged Through Sports During COVID-19 - News & Events | health.gov

Implementing the Move Your Way® Campaign to Get Older Adults Moving in West Virginia - News & Events | health.gov

Effect of combined locomotor training and aerobic exercise on increasing handgrip strength in elderly with locomotive syndrome: A randomised controlled trial - ScienceDirect