Fitness for a Lifetime
How much exercise - and what kind - do you need for lifelong fitness?
As each New Year begins, we're bombarded with enticing ads for everything
from fitness equipment to health club memberships to home workout videos -- all
purporting to be exactly what we need to get in shape.
But in reality, no two people's fitness needs are identical. Further,
experts say that our fitness needs can change -- sometimes significantly -- in
every decade of our lives.
"While there are certain fitness basics that hold true from person to
person and decade to decade, there are also certain types of exercises specific
to each decade -- they are age-related as well as related to health risks,"
says Chris Carmichael, personal coach to Lance Armstrong and one of the experts
behind the "Keep Moving" motivational workout program for older
To help you find the workouts that suit you best, Carmichael, along with
exercise pro Kelli Calabrese and bone and nutrition expert Deborah Litman, MD,
helped WebMD put together the following guidelines. (Remember that no matter
what your age, you should check with your doctor before beginning any exercise
Your 20s and 30s
If you're like most women, your 20s and 30s are filled with energy and
activity. As such, you may not see the need for a formal exercise program.
But regardless of how active your life is, experts advise, don't overlook
the power of a regular fitness routine to increase your health now and in the
"Fitness in the 20s and 30s is really all about creating good health
habits, and that should really be your main goal," says Calabrese, an
exercise physiologist who was Personal Fitness Professional Magazine's 2004
Online Trainer of the Year.
To affect your health right now, experts say, concentrate on workouts that
help build a healthy skeleton.
"During your 20s you are still building bones, so it's important to do
exercises that help you build the strongest bones possible," says
That means doing weight-bearing workouts (those that work your muscles and
bones against gravity, like walking or jogging) for 30 minutes, twice a
"The idea is to put stress on your bones, which encourages them to
become stronger," says Carmichael.
In terms of your future health, nothing is more important than regular
cardio workouts. You can reap benefits from just 20-30 minutes, twice a week,
of an aerobic activity like running, swimming, biking, or even dancing,
Carmichael tells WebMD: "You will reduce your risk of hypertension, high
cholesterol, or even heart attack later in life."
And the sooner you incorporate fitness into your daily life, the more likely
you will be to carry the habit into the next several decades.
"It's a lot easier to carry a behavior from one decade to the next, than
trying to change a behavior in later years," Carmichael says.