Keeping fit: What is the right exercise for your age?

Non-structured physical activity is great for children.
Non-structured physical activity is great for children.

The effect of exercise on health is profound. It can protect you from a range of conditions, including heart diseasetype 2 diabetes and some cancers. But the type and amount of exercise you should do changes as you age. To ensure that you are doing the right type of exercise for your age, follow this simple guide.

Childhood and adolescence

In childhood, exercise helps control body weightbuilds healthy bones and promotes self-confidence and healthy sleep patterns. The Government recommends that children should get at least one hour of exercise a day. As a tip:

The type and amount of exercise you should do changes as you age.
The type and amount of exercise you should do changes as you age.
  • Children should try a variety of sports and develop skills, such as swimming and the ability to hit and kick a ball.

  • Lots of non–scheduled physical activity is great, too, such as playing in playgrounds.


Exercise habits tend to steadily decline during teen years, particularly in girls. Getting enough exercise promotes a healthy body image and helps manage stress and anxiety. You can also:

  • Encourage teenagers to keep one team sport, if possible.

  • For teenagers who are not into team sports, swimming or athletics can be a good way to keep fitness levels up.

In your 20s

You are at your absolute physical peak in your mid-20s, with the fastest reaction times and highest VO2 max – the maximum rate at which the body can pump oxygen to muscles. After this peak, your VO2 max decreases by up to 1 per cent each year and your reaction time slows each year. The good news is that regular physical activity can slow this decline. Building lean muscle mass and bone density at this age helps you retain them in later years.

  • Vary your training and keep it fun. Try tag rugby, rowing or boot camp.

  • If you are a regular exerciser, get advice from an exercise professional to build “periodisation” into your training regime. This involves dividing your training regime into progressive cycles that manipulate different aspects of training – such as intensity, volume and type of exercise – to optimise your performance and ensure you peak for a planned exercise event, such as a triathlon.

In your 30s

As careers and family life for many intensify in their 30s, it is important that you maintain cardiovascular fitness and strength to slow normal physical decline. If you have a sedentary job, make sure you maintain good posture and break up long periods of sitting by forcing activity into your day, such as routing your printer to another room, climbing a flight of stairs to use the bathroom on another floor, or standing when taking a phone call so you are moving every half an hour where possible.

  • Work smart. Try high-intensity interval training. This is where bursts of high-intensity activity, up to 80 per cent of your maximum heart rate, such as sprinting and cycling, are broken up with periods of lower-intensity exercise. This kind of workout is good for the time-poor as it can be done in 20 minutes.

  • For all women, and especially after childbirth, do pelvic floor exercises, sometimes known as Kegel exercises, daily to help prevent incontinence.

  • Diversify your exercise programme to keep it interesting. Try boot camp, spin class or yoga.

Diversify your training with boot camp. wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock

In your 40s

Most people start to put on weight in their 40s. Resistance exercise is the best way to optimise calorie burning to counteract fat accumulation and reverse the loss of 3 to 8 per cent of muscle mass per decade. Ten weeks of resistance training could increase lean weight by 1.4kg, increase resting metabolic rate by 7 per cent and decrease fat weight by 1.8kg.

  • Try kettlebells or start a weight training programme in your gym.

  • Take up running, if you don’t run already, and don’t be afraid to start a more intensive exercise programme. You get more bang for your buck with running versus walking.

  • Pilates can be useful to build core strength to protect against back pain, which often starts in this decade.

Take up kettlebells in your 40s to burn calories. Goolia Photography/Shutterstock

In your 50s

In this decade, aches and pains may crop up and chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, can manifest. As oestrogen declines in postmenopausal women, the risk of heart disease increases.

  • Do strength training twice a week to maintain your muscle mass.

  • Weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, is recommended. Walk fast enough so that your breathing rate increases and you break a sweat.

  • Try something different. Tai chi can be excellent for balance and relaxation.

In your 60s

Typically, people accumulate more chronic conditions as they get older, and ageing is a major risk factor for cancer. Maintaining a high level of physical activity can help prevent cancers, such as post-menopausal breast cancer, colon cancer and cancer of the womb, and it reduces the risk of developing chronic conditions, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Physical activity tends to decline with age, so keep active and try to buck this trend.

  • Try ballroom dancing or other forms of dancing; it’s a fun and sociable way to exercise.

  • Incorporate strength and flexibility exercises twice a week. Aqua-aerobics can be a great way to develop strength using water as resistance.

  • Maintain cardiovascular exercise, such as brisk walking.

Ballroom dancing is fun and sociable. Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

70s and beyond

Exercise in your 70s and beyond helps prevent frailty and falls, and it’s important for your cognitive function. If you have a period of ill health, try to keep mobile, if possible. Strength and fitness can decline rapidly if you are bed-bound or very inactive, which can make it hard to get back to previous levels.

  • Walk and talk. Instead of inactive visits from family and friends, go for a walk together. It will keep you motivated and boost your health more than solitary exercise.

  • Incorporate some strength, balance and cardiovascular exercise in your regime. But get advice from a physiotherapist or other exercise professional, especially if you have several chronic conditions.

The main message is to keep moving throughout your life. Sustained exercise is what benefits health most.

How to Treat Neurological Conditions with Physical Therapy

This article is based on reporting that features expert sources.

U.S. News & World Report

Physical Therapy for Neurological Conditions

PHYSICAL THERAPY HELPS people improve their movement. You may think of physical therapy as something you use after a sports injury or after certain types of surgery. However, physical therapy helps with a variety of health issues. For example, breast cancer patients who have had their lymph nodes removed often get physical therapy to help with lymphedema. Physical therapy can also help with neurological disorders.


Neurological disorders (also called neurological diseases or conditions) affect the brain, spinal cord or nervous system. There are more than 1,000 neurological diseases. Some examples include:

Nearly 100 million Americans were affected by neurological disorders in 2011, according to a report in the Annals of Neurology. This number will likely increase as the population ages. Stroke and Alzheimer’s disease were the fourth- and fifth-highest killers in the U.S. in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Physical therapists are trained, licensed professionals who focus on evaluating and treating problems that affect any type of movement, says Anne Aldrich, a board-certified clinical specialist in pediatric physical therapy at CHOC Children’s, a pediatric health care system in Orange, California.

Physical therapists help to improve movement, so people can more easily do the things they want to do, says physical therapist Julie A. Blank, owner of On the Go Therapy Services in Sarasota, Florida.

Physical therapy is a good fit for many people with neurological disorders because they may have problems with their movement. These problems are often caused by the disorder. Depending on the type of neurological condition someone has, movement problems can get worse as the disease progresses. This is the case with conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and ALS.

How Physical Therapy Can Help

“These impairments can be small or large and can have a varying impact on an individual’s ability to move,” Aldrich says. Here are a few examples of how movement problems affect people with neurological disorders – and how physical therapy can help:

  • A man had a stroke eight years earlier. The stroke caused him to walk abnormally. Now his knee hurts due to the way he walks. He wants his knee pain to get better.
  • A child with a neurological disorder may need to learn to walk with a cane. Before doing this, she needs to practice sitting and standing. Then eventually, she can learn to walk with the cane.
  • A woman has a traumatic brain injury. Now her feet and hands aren’t moving together when she walks.
  • A man with ALS wants to learn some simple exercises to help avoid joint pain and stiffness.
  • Caregivers for a woman with Alzheimer’s disease want to help prevent her from falling. A physical therapist practices balance exercises with her to reduce her fall risk.
  • A physical therapist helps a woman with migraines by performing manual therapy, which is a manipulation of the muscles used by physical therapists and other health professionals. These movements help to decrease pain and expand mobility in the head and neck.
  • An older man with Parkinson’s disease has physical therapy to help with repetitive twisting of the foot, which can happen with Parkinson’s. The exercises done in physical therapy help to strengthen his foot.

Physical therapists tailor their care to each patient. They work with patients to create realistic goals. This means the therapy that one person receives will be very different from the therapy someone else gets. For instance, a person who needs a little training with the mobility equipment he or she uses will have very different needs than someone who has just had a stroke and needs to get back to work in a couple of months, says American Physical Therapy Association spokeswoman Alison M. Lichy. She is also the owner of Neurological Physical Therapy in Falls Church, Virginia.

What to Expect

Goals for physical therapy also are tailored for each person, and so are the frequency of physical therapy sessions. A person in the hospital due to a recent stroke or other major neurological injury may receive physical therapy and other types of therapy at the hospital a couple of times a day to help speed up progress.

Other patients may see a physical therapist a couple of times a week at a physical therapist’s office, although some therapists will come to a person’s home.

Sessions also can be done:

  • In a gym.
  • At hospice.
  • In a classroom or on a playground, which would be options for children.

It’s important to start physical therapy for neurological conditions as early as possible. Physical therapy can’t stop these conditions or their effects on movement entirely, but it can help slow down their progression, Blank says. “We can help to maintain things like good posture, balance and strength,” Blank notes. It’s harder to get good results if physical therapy starts later on.

Physical therapists help their patients get better with regular, repetitive exercises. Depending on a person’s goals, this can include practice with:

  • Balance.
  • Strengthening.
  • Stretching.

Even if the movements done during those exercises aren’t perfect, they help retrain the muscles and the brain to work together – something they may not have done for a long time.

Physical therapy for children with neurological disorders is a little different because sessions can be set up as playtime. For example, a therapist may have a child reach for a toy to help get them to practice rolling over or balance on one foot while playing ring toss in a pool. “This can make pediatric physical therapy both fun and satisfying for children and their parents,” Aldrich says.

An important part of physical therapy is the practice done outside of therapy sessions. Lichy says, “(Patients) need to know how to do activities at home and do them safely to maximize what they do outside of physical therapy.”

Patients who are motivated to progress tend to do better than those who want to be left alone. Blank says, “Our main job isn’t to provide therapy. It’s to teach and equip you to help you succeed moving forward. We give you the tools to help you get better or maintain what you have.”


Getting the Most Out of Physical Therapy for Neurological Disorders

If you or someone you care for needs physical therapy to help with a neurological condition, there are a few tips to keep in mind to get the best care possible:

1. Find out about the therapist’s experience with neurological disorders. There are physical therapists who have a designation called neurologic clinical specialist, or NCS. Although physical therapists all have some knowledge of neurological disorders, those with the NCS designation have passed a special test to expand their expertise in this area. The American Physical Therapy Association can help people find a physical therapist and allows users to specialize if they want someone with neurological expertise.

2. Clearly communicate about your problem. If your movement problem isn’t something that can’t be recreated when you first see a physical therapist, then try to take pictures or videos at home, and bring them with you, Aldrich advises.

3. Speak up if you need more care. Many patients in today’s health care system feel their care is limited by what their insurance is willing to pay, Blank says. This can leave them feeling frustrated, especially if they still feel they need more care. Let your physical therapist know if that’s your situation. Some will work with you to file additional paperwork for more sessions or to offer additional care, Blank says.

4. Practice your assigned exercises at home. This can’t be stressed enough. Doing designated exercises outside of physical therapy sessions can make a big difference in rebuilding your strength or preventing a further loss of movement if you have a worsening condition.

Habits That May Reduce Your Risk for Developing Alzheimer’s

Close up of group of senior women (80s) sitting on steps on front porch of house, laughing.  Focus on woman on right.
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Vanessa Caceres, Contributor

Vanessa Caceres began writing for U.S. News in 2017, originally specializing in diabetes.   READ MORE


Anne Aldrich, PT, DPT, PCSJulie A. Blank, PTAlison Lichy, PT, DPT, NCS

Exercise boosts memory like caffeine

Caffeine and exercise have been shown to separately improve certain aspects of cognition like attention and alertness, but the two energy boosters had never been compared head-to-head until Western’s Exercise and Health Psychology Laboratory explored the idea. Image is credited to Jeff Renaud.

Summary: Short bouts of aerobic exercise can improve working memory as much as caffeine can. Additionally, exercise can help curb the negative effects of caffeine withdrawal, such as fatigue, headaches, and bad moods.

Source: University of Western Ontario

Brisk walks – even as short as 20 minutes – can provide your working memory just as much pep as that morning cup of coffee. In fact, that same recent study showed, that exercise may also reduce the negative effects of caffeine withdrawal like headaches, fatigue and crankiness.

The study, Effects of Caffeine and Acute Aerobic Exercise on Working Memory and Caffeine Withdrawal, was published recently in Nature’s Scientific Reports. Western Exercise and Health Psychology Laboratory director Harry Prapavessis, along with graduate student Anisa Morava and former student Matthew Fagan, led the study.

Working memory is the ability to store and manipulate information, in the moment, like remembering items on a grocery list after you’ve driven to the store or recalling how each royal is related to one another on The Crown while binge-watching Season 3.

Caffeine and exercise have been shown to separately improve certain aspects of cognition like attention and alertness, but the two energy boosters had never been compared head-to-head.

The researchers tested one bout of aerobic exercise – essentially a 20-minute, brisk walk on a treadmill – against one dose of caffeine – equivalent to approximately one cup of coffee – for improving working memory. They found that the brisk walk compared favourably to the caffeine. The results were equivalent in both non-caffeine consumers and caffeine consumers, which is important to know for some coffee drinkers and energy drink guzzlers.

“Healthy individuals drinking two cups of coffee a day are generally OK in the sense that it’s not going to negatively affect most of your physiological functions. However, for special populations, caffeine consumption can be problematic and should be limited or reduced,” Morava explained.

These special populations include anxiety sufferers or individuals who experience muscle tremors, as well as pregnant women. People who are high consumers of caffeine, like those who drink more than four cups of coffee a day, are also more at-risk to some of the negative effects of caffeine.

Morava acknowledges that reducing caffeine consumption, whether medically recommended or not, is no simple task but says exercise may assist.

“If people experience withdrawal, an acute, brisk walk may reduce some of the symptoms,” Morava said.


University of Western Ontario
Media Contacts:
Jeff Renaud – University of Western Ontario
Image Source:
The image is credited to Jeff Renaud.

Original Research: Open access
“Effects of Caffeine and Acute Aerobic Exercise on Working Memory and Caffeine Withdrawal”. Anisa Morava, Matthew James Fagan & Harry Prapavessis.
Scientific Reports doi:10.1038/s41598-019-56251-y.


Effects of Caffeine and Acute Aerobic Exercise on Working Memory and Caffeine Withdrawal

Studies show that a single bout of exercise confers cognitive benefits. However, many individuals use psychoactive substances such as caffeine to enhance cognitive performance. The effects of acute exercise in comparison to caffeine on cognition remain unknown. Furthermore, caffeine use is associated with withdrawal symptoms upon cessation. Whether acute exercise can reduce withdrawal symptoms also remains unknown. The objectives of this study were to compare the effects of acute moderate intensity aerobic exercise to caffeine on working memory (WM) and caffeine withdrawal symptoms (CWS). In Phase I, non-caffeine (n = 29) and caffeine consumers (n = 30) completed a WM assessment, followed by acute exercise and caffeine. In Phase II, caffeine consumers (n = 25) from Phase I underwent the WM assessment and reported CWS following a 12-hour deprivation period. Acute moderate intensity aerobic exercise and caffeine (1.2 mg/kg) significantly improved WM accuracy and reduced CWS comparably. WM performance was not reduced following caffeine deprivation.

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