How to Get Stronger, Faster, Fitter, and Healthier in Your 60s
"People who defy age don't smoke, are active, aren't fat, and drink alcohol in moderation," says Dr. Michael Joyner, an exercise specialist at the Mayo Clinic. But just as important at this age, he says, is that people remain socially connected and active. If you retire, take up hobbies or volunteer work; if you don't, focus on the parts of your job you do enjoy and eliminate those that you don't. "If you really look at the population data," Joyner says, "it's the people who put that whole picture together who live a healthy life until they're 90."
Your main focus now should be to continue to work out and to recover from workouts. In addition to some cardio and three weight workouts per week, devote at least one day to rejuvenation activities that can help your body recover, like yoga, Pilates, massage, and using a foam roller. Devote another day entirely to prehab exercises, as outlined for your fifties. In your fifties, you begin to lose muscle more quickly than you can gain it. This can amount to a serious strength loss by 60, but fortunately, the effect is reversible. Researchers found that 18 to 20 weeks of resistance training can add nearly 2.5 pounds of muscle on older adults. A University of New Mexico study found that free-weight exercises performed while standing produce nearly twice the lean body mass as seated, machine-based exercises among older men. Doing free-weight exercises, whether standing or seated, will work a maximum number of muscles in a holistic, integrated way to build functional strength. But proper technique and low weights are critical to avoid injury. The best free-weight lifts are the bench press, squat, and dead lift. Think of each as a basic movement: A squat is like bending down to reach the ground and standing up again; a bench press is like pushing a stalled car or a door closed; and a dead lift is like raising a small child off the ground. Start slow and light, using dumbbells before progressing to a barbell. Include chin-ups and push-ups for complete upper-body strength.
Low testosterone afflicts about 5 million American men, including 10 percent of guys in their fifties and about 30 percent of those in their sixties. Symptoms include fatigue, depression, muscle weakness, sleep problems, malaise, and low sex drive. If you suffer from any of these, ask your doctor about supplemental testosterone. He won't prescribe a supplement without a diagnosis of clinically low levels, but since there is no medical criteria for this, even conservative urologists will make a prognosis based on a broad range of indicators.
REM sleep is critical to mental regeneration and memory consolidation. The phase is back-loaded, meaning it happens mostly in the last four hours. If you wake up in the wee hours and can't get back to sleep, you'll miss your REM and likely spend the rest of the day groggy. To avoid this, cut back on alcohol, which causes blood-sugar fluctuations that can wake you up, keep you alert, and cause more frequent bathroom trips.
Old-School Weight Training
Aim to complete three strength-focused workouts per week, as follows:
1. Warm-up. Perform unweighted "air" squats and standing dumbbell presses. To do a standing dumbbell press, hold a light dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height, and press both simultaneously straight up overhead.
2. Do squats. Perform three sets of five repetitions each with a weight that allows you to complete all sets and reps. Start by holding a dumbbell at shoulder height in each hand, held, instead of a barbell, so you can add weight in small increments and learn proper form (the weight of the dumbbell will move naturally in a straight up-and-down path – essential to good squatting technique). Add 2.5 to five pounds each week if you're comfortable and can maintain proper form.
3. Bench press. Follow the same protocol for squats, with three sets of five reps each. Start by holding a dumbbell in each hand to develop shoulder mobility before progressing to a barbell. Add one to two pounds each week if you're comfortable and can maintain proper form.
1. Warm-up. Do a 15-minute cardio workout that elevates your heart rate.
2. Complete a chin-up ladder. Chin-up ladders let you accumulate volume and build muscle quickly, even if you can do only one or two at a time, since reps can be repeated frequently when using just your body weight. After two months of ladders, you should be able to do significantly more reps. To do a chin-up ladder, complete one chin-up (like a pull-up but with palms facing toward you), then rest for one minute. Do two chin-ups, then rest for one minute. Lead each rep with your chest, keeping shoulders back, and continue until you can't do any more. Take a short rest, and start again.
1. Warm-up. Do push-ups until your heart rate is elevated and your muscles are warm.
2. Dead lift. Do one set of five repetitions of dead lifts at a weight that allows you to complete all five reps. Start with a dumbbell or light kettlebell in each hand, instead of a barbell. Add 2.5 to five pounds each week, if you're comfortable and can maintain proper form.
3. Complete a push-up ladder. To do the ladder, follow the same protocol as the chin-up ladder described in Day Two.