HIIT, yoga or weights? We break down the best fitness options for you, based on your age – whether you’re in your 20s, 30s, and 40s.
Our bodies and lifestyles change as we age, and so should our exercise routines. One minute you’re at the club until 2am and can hit the gym the next day. And just years later, you’re up at 2am changing a diaper and putting together a promotion-worthy presentation (or both!). Our decade-by-decade guide gives you practical advice on what’s best for your body through the years, with exercise regimes that will help keep you looking youthful and feeling healthy at any age.
IN YOUR 20S
You’re working your way up the corporate ladder but have loads of energy. When it comes to working out, you can push — really hard. The trick in this decade is to not abuse your body.
Try: Resistance training
Combat long hours at the office by strengthening your shoulders to improve your posture. Prevent chronic upper body pain and tension headaches by strengthening your trapezius, the muscle group that stabilises your shoulders. Physiotherapists suggest adding simple weighted exercises like bent dumbbell rows. If you’re up for a challenge, do them while holding a plank position.
Adding yoga to your weekly workout routine both stretches and strengthen the body while helping to balance your emotional state. Amanda Chee, a yoga teacher at Yoga Lab, says: “Depending on how you’re feeling, doing yoga can help regulate emotional states — various styles of yoga can either help you feel energised or help in winding down after a long day.”
Try: High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
You know the saying: if you’ve got it, flaunt it. Take advantage of your body while it’s at its peak. Challenge yourself to intense workout classes that push your body to its maximum. You may feel like dying half-way through, but your body will thank you for it in the long run when you see your fat decrease and your muscles increase! Make sure to cycle in rest days. Again, though you can push hard while in your 20s, don’t subject your body to constant abuse.
IN YOUR 30S
In your 30s, you don’t shed weight as easily as you used to, since our metabolism begins to drop. Instead, start to look at exercise as a form of preventative medicine — one that can keep you strong and healthy for life, if you really start to make exercise a part of your routine. Always allow for one day of rest in between workouts.
Try: Circuit training
To keep your metabolism thriving, introduce circuit training into your regime. The combination of resistance and cardio keeps your fat-burning mechanisms going for a longer period of time. If you’re too busy to hit the gym, there are plenty of home-friendly circuit workouts on the internet that you can customise for your body.
If you’ve just had a baby, pilates is a great exercise for postnatal recovery, and for pulling the muscles back together (“in and up”, as it were). Many studios have even started offering pilates classes tailored to new mums to help strengthen the core and pelvic floor, areas that may have weakened during pregnancy. Some classes are even baby-friendly.
Get those reps in at the gym! A study conducted by Harvard Medical School showed that aerobic exercise alone is not enough to keep your body in good shape; according to Dr Robert Schreiber, “Unless you are doing strength training, you will become weaker and less functional” over time. You don’t have to go with high reps or weights. In fact, make it a point to switch it up so that your body doesn’t get used to a routine.
IN YOUR 40S
Your 40s are a crucial time as hormones change, metabolism slows, and lean muscle mass decreases. Your entire body composition begins to change, and you’ll probably see it first in the midsection. It’s a time to focus on strength and bone health. You may find that you have to slow down, and that’s okay. Instead, focus on holding positions in exercise for longer, and with more intensity.
Try: Weight-bearing exercises
Weight-bearing exercises make you move against gravity while staying upright. Some of the best exercises include hiking, training on the elliptical and using resistance bands. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation in the United States, approximately 1 in 2 women over the age of 50 will break a bone because of the disease. Because of this, prevention is the best medicine.
Try: Low-intensity cardiovascular activities
Keep up with the cardio to keep your heart healthy, but go easy on your joints. Try doing lower-impact activities for a longer period of time, like going for long power walks, rather than short, high-intensity ones like sprints. If you have access to a pool, then opt for doing a few laps each morning.
While planks and plank modifications are great exercises to do at any age, they become extra important when you’re fending off early signs of back pains. Strengthen your abs, back and glutes to protect your back. While exercises like crunches or Russian twists target specific parts of your mid-section, planks engage your entire core.