By Yelena Sapin
Problem: Loss of Strength
When it comes to having the physical strength to take care of yourself and perform the daily tasks of life, the “use it or lose it” adage rings true. But even the most dedicated athletes aren’t immune to age-related muscle loss that begins in our 30s. “We lose 2 to 5 percent of muscle mass per decade as we age,” says Dee Fairfield, senior healthy living director of Northeast Family YMCA. A sedentary lifestyle or an immobilizing injury speeds up the rate of muscle loss, but it’s never too late to start working out to regain and maintain your strength.
Solution: Work Up to It
Anybody can exercise, no matter your age and fitness level, Fairfield says. Chair-based routines let you ease into fitness and graduate to standing as you get stronger. Water-based exercises take pressure off achy joints while improving your strength and endurance. As always, it’s best to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program if you have any health concerns. “You have to be smart about it and make sure you’re not overdoing it too early,” Fairfield says.
Solution: Pump Up Your Routine
If physical activity is already a part of your life, make sure your regimen includes both strength and balance exercises to not only reduce the risk of falls but to also lessen the severity of injury if a fall does occur, Fairfield says. “Yoga can assist with that, but you can also use balance boards, do one-legged stands — use a chair for support if you need to — and a variety of other techniques to challenge your body to stay upright and not tip to the side.”
Find more tips in the National Institute of Aging guide on exercise and physical activity.