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A busy executive. A truck driver. An accountant. A computer programmer. Four seemingly different occupations, yet they do have one thing in common: For the most part, they entail hours of sitting at a desk or behind the wheel of a vehicle. If you’re retiring after working the last 30 to 40 years in these occupations or others like them, you’ve probably missed out on much of the exercise you need to preserve your physical function and your independence in your senior years. Many men at this stage notice that they’re having trouble doing simple physical activities, which makes them realize that they need to start exercising. Retirement may be a time to relax and enjoy a work-free life, but it isn’t a ticket to physical inactivity. If you didn’t exercise during your work life, it’s time to build up your fitness with a complete men’s health workout.
Aerobics Help Your Heart
Aerobic exercises raise your heart rate, improve your cardiovascular health and, as calorie-burners, are vital for weight management.
Older adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week—for example, 30 minutes a day, five days a week. For more fit seniors, a minimum goal of 75 minutes of vigorous exercise is an option, but older adults who’ve been sedentary should undergo a cardiac stress test before trying vigorous exercise.
For most older men, brisk walking, biking and swimming are examples of moderate-intensity exercise, while vigorous activities include jogging, running or brisk walking on hilly terrain. However, what constitutes moderate or vigorous intensity varies from person to person, depending on your fitness level.
To gauge the intensity of your workout, use the rated perceived exertion scale, which rates your exertion from zero (no difficulty) to 10 (very heavy). For most people, exercising in the range of 3 to 5 is moderately intense, while 6 to 9 is vigorous. Another common measure of exertion is the “talk test.” You should be able to talk with some effort (if you can converse without much effort, the exercise is not vigorous enough). If you can’t carry on a conversation at all while exercising, you are probably pushing too hard and need to slow down.
Also, understand that simply counting your steps as a way to monitor your exercise level isn’t enough. The quality of the steps and the energy you expend matter most.
When deciding on the right aerobic exercise, consider what’s appropriate based on your overall health and fitness level. If you’re at risk for falls, avoid using treadmills, and bike with caution—a stationary bike might be better.
Build Your Muscles
In addition to building up your aerobic endurance, keep your muscles strong to perform your activities of daily living. Do strength-training exercises on at least two nonconsecutive days a week. Each session should include one exercise targeting the major muscle groups in the legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms. You can use free weights, weight machines, stretchy resistance bands, or your own body weight to build muscle.
Lift as much weight as will allow you to do two to three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions of each exercise. You should feel a mild burn and your muscles should feel like they’re getting a proper workout. If you’re not feeling anything, then your weights are too light, but if you add too many weights or reps, you can injure yourself.
Use your breathing as a guide to determine whether you’re lifting too much weight: If you have to hold your breath to lift something, it’s probably too heavy. Also, base the intensity of your strength training on your everyday activity level. For example, if you need to challenge yourself further than what you would do in a day’s worth of yard work. But, if you’ve been mostly sedentary due to a desk job, don’t do too much more or you’ll risk injury.
Do some light physical activity to warm up your muscles. As you strength train, breathe out as you exert and breathe in while you rest. Listen to your body, and stop what you’re doing if you feel pain.
Men’s Health Workouts Should Also Focus on Flexibility & Balance
Include five to 10 minutes of stretching exercises every day to improve your flexibility. Try to hold each stretch for 20 seconds—don’t bounce—and repeat each stretch three times. Do the stretches after your other exercises or independent of them, and avoid doing them first thing in the morning. Be sure to pay extra attention to muscles that are the tightest or weakest.
Last, but not least, spend five or 10 minutes a day practicing exercises that improve your balance. For starters, try standing on one foot, and incorporate balance exercises into your daily activities, such as standing on one foot while talking on the phone. If your balance is good, challenge yourself by closing your eyes. If your balance is poor, hold on to a countertop or other sturdy surface to steady yourself.
Embarking on any new men’s health workout can seem daunting, especially if you’ve been inactive for a long time. The key is to start slowly and ease into your new post-retirement life of exercise. Find one thing you like and try to fall into a routine. Then, once you’re used to it, add in additional regimens and areas of focus because if you try to do too much at once, you’re going to lose momentum.