Once you hit 60, certain age-related changes are inevitable. You'll probably have a tough time reading in dim light and your sense of taste will likely diminish. But as a man in the over-60 bracket, you have considerable control over certain aspects of your health profile. A consistent and sensible exercise program can help you steer clear of serious illness, age-related injury and disability. Do it right, and regular exercise can actually add years to your life.
Endurance exercises increase heart and lung strength, giving you more staying power as you continue to age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends boosting cardio fitness with basic endurance exercises, such as brisk walking, running, biking, swimming and stepping. Aim to perform 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. You'll know you're working "moderately" hard if you can speak -- but not sing -- comfortably. Alternatively, aim for 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity -- the type that leaves you gasping -- every week.
Resistance exercises prevent muscle loss. Adults over age 50 who don't strength train regularly can lose a pound of muscle per year, according to Wayne Westcott and Tom Baechle, authors of "Fitness Professional's Guide to Strength Training Older Adults." The number of fast-twitch muscle fibers -- the fibers most heavily involved in high-strength activities, such as climbing stairs -- can decrease by an astounding 50 percent by age 80. Such a significant loss can lead to lower functional capacity, slower metabolism and greater fat accumulation, all of which contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. To slow the process of muscle loss, Westcott and Baechle recommend strength-training exercises that target each of the major muscle groups. Use progressively heavier resistance to perform one set of every exercise, with a set of eight to 12 repetitions at about 75 percent of your maximum weight load. Work your legs, hips, back, abdominal area, chest, shoulders and arms. Use basic exercises, including squats, lunges, heel raises, bridges, pushups, bicycle crunches, shoulder presses and biceps curls. Aim to strength train two or three nonconsecutive days a week.
Light stretching lengthens and loosens short, tight muscles so you can stay mobile. Stick with dynamic stretching -- involving continuous, repetitive movement -- before aerobic and strength-training activities. Ankle circles, torso twists, butt kicks and traveling lunges gently warm up your muscles in preparation for more vigorous activity. After aerobic and resistance-training sessions, when your muscles are already warm and supple, do a brief but thorough stretch routine. Include stretches for your neck and shoulders, torso, arms, thighs and calves. Stay focused and breathe continuously, holding the position for up to 30 seconds. Avoid bouncing or moving beyond the point of light to moderate tension. Stretch your right and left sides equally, even if one side seems tighter than the other.
Finding Your Balance
Your ability to sense where your body is in space -- proprioception -- can decline with age, putting you at increased risk of age-related falls and disability. The National Institute on Aging suggests using basic balance exercises to maintain or boost your proprioceptive ability. Wherever and whenever you can, practice standing on one leg, balancing on the balls of your feet or walking heel-to-toe in a straight line. Increase difficulty by working on an unstable surface, such as soft beach sand or a puffy pillow. You can also try closing your eyes, moving your arms and tilting your head from side to side or playing catch with a friend while you balance.