Ask the Expert: Exercise For Every Decade

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 I’m trying to get my dad more physically active. Will what works for me be good for him, too?

 Exercise is important at every age, but your needs change as you get older, says Hulio Burton, a healthy living director for the YMCA of Greater Kansas City.


“Cardio, flexibility and mobility, power, balance and core training are all things to consider at any age,” says Burton. “But what you do and how much you do in those areas may vary depending on how old you are.”

Here are Burton’s tips and exercise ideas for the decades of life.

In your 30s:
“Be sure to include strength, core and flexibility/balance training. High intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts once a week can increase muscle development to help prevent injuries. Impact or weight-bearing HIIT can be helpful to decrease the likelihood of developing osteoporosis in later years. Incorporating yoga has the benefit of increasing flexibility and mobility.”

Burton’s recommendation: 45 minutes a day, 5 days a week

In your 40s:
“Continue to focus on strength, core and flexibility/balance training. Regular aerobic exercise (such as walking, jogging or an elliptical machine) will decrease risks of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Resistance training can increase muscle mass and bone repair and regeneration, which is especially important to help counteract hormonal changes that occur in this decade of life. For men, a decrease of testosterone can lead to muscle mass loss. For women a decrease in estrogen can increase bone reabsorption.”

Burton’s recommendation: 45 minutes a day, 5 days a week, including resistance training (weight training) 3-4 times a week, and cardio 5 times a week.

In your 50s:
“Focus on increasing cardiovascular health, strengthening your core and improving posture. If you’re looking for low-impact cardio, try swimming. It can be especially good if you have knee or foot problems that other forms of cardio can aggravate. Consider yoga and Pilates to strengthen your core. For better posture, stretching chest muscles and strengthening mid-back muscles can help. To maintain strength and power in your lower body, try step ups.”

Burton’s recommendation: 30 minutes of cardio daily, plus strength and flexibility training one or two times a week.

In your 60s:
“At this point of your life, your bones are becoming more fragile, so strength training is important to promote bone repair and remodeling. For cardio, consider low-impact options such as walking, water exercise or riding a stationary bike. To increase strength and power, try exercises such as moving from a sitting position to a standing position.”

Burton’s recommendation: 45-60 minutes of cardio 3 days a week, plus resistance training 1-2 times a week.

In your 70s and beyond:
“Flexibility and power in your lower body will help you maintain mobility and activities of daily living. Keep it simple with low-impact group exercise classes. Or try exercises such as walking or a stationary bike on a low-resistance setting. Continue to build power in your lower body with ‘sit to stands’ out of a chair.”

Burton’s recommendation: 45-60 minutes of exercise, 3 days a week

For support, Burton says consider joining a wellness center like the Y or check out virtual workouts you can do at home such as the free ones the Y has at

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