Top tips to keep fit for every decade of life

Want to know the secret to being fit at any age? Experts reveal how to adjust your routine to stay in great shape in every decade.

It’s easy to slow down and stop moving as we get older, but there are some 70-year-olds running marathons and lifting weights.

So, what can we do to help us reach a ripe old age with our fitness intact?

Fitness in your 20s and 30s

Exercise physiologist Richelle Street says this is the time when healthy habits are formed and ultimately these will impact the rest of your life.

“Fitness starts at an early age, yet unfortunately a lot of people neglect their health when they are in their prime,” Richelle, a spokeswoman for Exercise and Sports Science Australia, says.

“The thing is you actually start losing muscle mass in your 30s, so it’s something you need to address early on as prevention is better than a cure when it comes to health care.”

Research shows muscle loss – also known as sarcopenia – is about 3 per cent to 5 per cent per decade for the average person.

How to stay in shape:

To counter deterioration, Richelle says to aim for 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise five days a week, including two sessions of strength training.

“Find an exercise you enjoy and find something where you connect with others as then it’s more likely you’ll keep going back to it,” she explains.

Also, don’t forget to include rest days as you start to take longer to recover from exercise in your 30s.

Fitness in your 40s and 50s

Typically, these are the decades where people notice their fitness declining rapidly.

Firstly, women will go through menopause, which can make bones weaken and moods shift more frequently than normal, resulting in a loss of motivation.

Weight gain is another common issue for both men and women during middle age.

While hormones play a part, lifestyle is actually the biggest factor, Richelle says.

“People get busy with kids or their career and it’s really easy to let go and not prioritise one’s own health,” she says.

How to stay in shape:

Richelle says regular aerobic exercise and strength training are crucial.

You should still be clocking up at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week.

Think weights, brisk walking, running, cycling, swimming, tennis, dancing, yoga and ball games.

Walking by itself won’t cut it, Richelle says.

MediGYM owner Peter Valabek emphasises that the most important thing at this age is to not let your fitness activity drop off.

“At 50 you should really be quite active, unless you’ve got an injury,” he says.

“People should also be especially focused on doing lots of leg exercises and hamstring exercises, because these are the areas that’ll deteriorate quickly.”

Fitness in your 60s and beyond

During your final decades of life the fitness goal is to keep being active.

“If you stop moving on a daily basis then you will stop and won’t get back up again,” Peter says.

“Maybe you go walking, you work in the garden, anything. Even getting up from your chair several times is good – as long as you’re doing something.”

How to stay in shape:

Peter advises still aiming for a minimum 150 minutes of exercise a week, though it may be much less vigorous.

Focus on bone and muscle strength is also crucial.

“It can be lifting small weights or using your body weight, something that’s engaging the muscles,” he says.

Engage a personal trainer to ensure you’re experimenting with new activities and stimulating your brain activity.

“Hydrotherapy is also great,” Richelle says.

“The buoyancy of the water assists in de-loading our joints while still allowing for movement and an increase in heart rate.”