So-called men’s fitness often means lifting weights or punching a bag, but experts will tell you that as we age, our bodies need different types of exercises to stay healthy.
“Society tells us that men should have big muscles and be strong,” says personal trainer Alistair Hopper of Flex Fitness in Winnipeg. “Therefore, the majority of men believe they should be training like a bodybuilder.”
In reality, Hopper says, working out like a bodybuilder does have its benefits, but there are detrimental side effects to lifting heavy weights on the daily.
“The biggest piece of advice I can give to men as they age is to listen to your body.”
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Fitness expert and author of Finding Your Fit Kathleen Trotter adds as we all age, we focus on exercise or routines we tend to be good at.
“For men, this can include focusing on strength elements, which is great, but as they enter their 20s, men should consider the exercises they are not good at,” she tells Global News. “Focus on mobility and flexibility.”
Hopper explains as we age, our bodies also change.
“In your 20s it is easier to get away with lifting heavy, but as men get into their 30s, 40s and beyond, we start feeling it more in our joints and chronic injuries start to pile up.”
Below, both experts share their advice on how men can change exercise routines as they age. And while this may not be ideal for all men, experts say it creates a foundation base for people to start with.
In their 20s, men should make working out more of a habit. “Men can go from being active in university to starting a real job,” Trotter says. “Get into the habit of training and being consistent.”
She suggests working out before work or during your lunch hour — whatever you choose, it gets easier to stick to as you age.
For men in their 20s, she says, it’s not so much about finding the right exercises, but figuring out what you like. Sign up for a gym class or take on a new challenge.
Exercise ideas: In your 20s, try to focus on strength. Trotter suggests weight lifting, squats, lunges, cardio and even a flexibility program like yoga or stretching.
In your 30s, things start to change. Men become more accustomed to their jobs or families, and it can get harder to find time to exercise.
“As a man in my late 30s, I’ve had to change my routine from what I did in my 20s. I still exercise six days a week, but I focus on technique and stretching. I also don’t lift 100 per cent of my max weight every time,” Hopper says.
Your 30s, Trotter adds, are about progressing gradually in your workout routine from your 20s (or start fresh), and avoiding injuries.
“People who haven’t played sports in 10 years go back to being active and injure themselves,” she says, adding you should take time to ease back into some of your favourite workouts from your 20s.
But this age range is all about posture and building a stronger core.
Exercise ideas: Pull-ups, bent over rows or anything that focuses on posture and lower back.
As men age, Hopper says they start to lose testosterone levels and muscle mass with each passing year. “Therefore, resistance training is very important to slow that process down,” he says. “A man’s diet becomes very important to maintain muscle mass and energy levels.”
Trotter says to focus on multi-dimensional workouts. “Don’t just do one type of lunge. Do side lunges and move your body in different directions,” she continues. “Men start to get robotic and stiff in their 40s and don’t move as well.”
Exercise ideas: Side hockey lunges and, again, anything that focuses on the core. Trotter recommends any version of the plank and bird dog.
50s and beyond
This age range is all about balance, even if that means single-leg raises. “The Bosu ball is a good starting point,” Trotter says, “or even starting with a leg lift on the floor and moving to the ball.”
Balance is important for multiple reasons in this age group, she adds, including fall prevention and doing the day-to-day like walking or running.
Exercise ideas: Leg lifts, squats, bicep curls and most importantly, stretching.