Staying fit and limber through the ages

By Duarte Rosario, Exercise Physiologist

At every stage of development exercise is crucial to our mental and physical wellbeing. Circumstances will often dictate our lifestyle choices and the physical activities that are available to us, but regardless of your choices it is important to find ways to stay active and get the exercise your body needs. The following is a decade-by-decade game plan for fitness throughout the ages.


Leading up to age 12, healthy habits are established primarily through sports and recreational play. For most children, these activities are enjoyable and it is not until the early teens that encouraging an active lifestyle can become a little more difficult. During the teens it is important to establish healthy cardiovascular fitness, build strong bones and musculature and further develop cognitive function. Teens should engage in at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity of moderate to vigorous intensity. In our twenties it is normal to feel physically strong (almost invincible) and now is the time to focus on developing proper movement mechanics for long-term injury prevention and building optimal levels of fitness as measured by VO2 max (the maximum capacity of an individual’s body to transport and use oxygen during exercise).


 By our mid-twenties, VO2max begins to decrease placing unwelcome limitations on our physical abilities. In order to maintain this vital capacity, we must engage in regular physical activity. Adults from the age of 18-64 years of age are encouraged to accumulate at least 150 minutes per week (20-30 minutes per day) of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic activity. Ideally, bouts of exercise should be 10 minutes or more in duration. Additionally, 2 days should be spent on bone- strengthening exercises that also work major muscles groups.


Our thirties typically bring added responsibilities, time constraints and a greater need for scheduling and work-life balance. Due to competing priorities, the third decade of life is often marked by a decline in effort, intensity and time spent exercising. But regardless of how difficult it may be to find the time, exercise should always be a priority because it will have the greatest impact on your physical fitness in the years to come and is a powerful stress reliever in the short-term. Exercise triggers the release of endorphins (our brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters) that help alleviate physical and mental stress.


As you turn the big 4-0, you may come to understand the expression: “the older you get, the stiffer you get.” By age 40, many are displaying signs of lower back pain, tight hips, restrictive hamstrings and sore muscles caused by years of wear and tear. Stretching will help prevent and treat this discomfort and should become a mandatory component of any fitness regimen. Stretching is also a good habit to develop that will help maintain functional range of motion that greatly reduces the chance of injury. Ask your Copeman kinesiologist to help you develop an appropriate stretching routine.

Fifties & beyond

The general guidelines for physical activity apply more than ever beyond age 50. However, now you should place extra attention on maintaining and improving your balance. In older adults, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries due to decreased muscle strength and balance.

There’s never a bad time to make improvements to your physical fitness. Speak with your Copeman Healthcare team about your path to lasting fitness.

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