As the months get warmer, thoughts often turn to exercise as a way of gaining a beach body or fitting more comfortably into summer clothes. However, the right mindset for a fitness routine is one of overall health and a higher quality of life, not just appearance or convenience, says Joe Goldberg, owner and operator of the TruFusion St. Louis fitness studio.
Men tend to automatically think of weightlifting as the best way to get fit, Goldberg says, but in reality, a good deal more variety and finesse are needed. “Men like to think of working out in terms of applying force to something,” he explains. “They may believe they just need to lift heavier weights to get better results. However, they also can get good results with lighter weights and long-term resistance. Ideally, they should be doing both.”
As men age, they tend to think about fitness in terms of how it will impact their lives right now, likely because the doctor has told them to exercise more or lose weight, Goldberg says. “However, you want to think about the longer-term physical and mental health benefits of exercise instead,” he says. “When you push your body to the limit where endorphins are being generated, you feel good, and all of a sudden you have created a workout routine that makes you feel so positive that it’s easy to stick with it. When you work in a healthy diet as well, it creates a domino effect to make your life better.”
Goldberg points out that one of the most important fitness concepts for men as they get older is to keep the body’s core strong. “That means paying attention to more than just your abdomen,” he says. “Your core wraps all the way around the body. You also need to work on building muscle around your hamstrings, glutes and quads because it starts to deteriorate otherwise. These are the kinds of exercises that help prevent back and knee problems that can keep you from being active later in life. They’re important if you want to keep doing the things you enjoy.”
He says men frequently have preconceived notions that they won’t enjoy or benefit from a group fitness class, but they are pleasantly surprised after joining one. “When you ask adults whether they would take a group class, women are far more likely to say yes,” he notes. “Men are more likely to think they just need to lift weights. But if that’s your main focus, you are missing out on the endorphins and the motivating experience of being pushed and encouraged by fellow class members.”
Once men have tried a class, they often feel increasingly drawn to it because it’s much like a team sport with lots of camaraderie, Goldberg notes. “A 53-year-old man recently told me that he was surprised to find Pilates classes had improved his posture, reduced his shoulder discomfort when sitting, and made him feel more comfortable overall,” he says. “He told me that no workout regimen had benefited him more than this one.”
Physical activity also can be important for balance and injury prevention in men. “Techniques like yoga really can be helpful with overall posture and balance,” Goldberg says. “The little stabilizer muscles you are building over time are very important, something you wouldn’t get just lifting weights. We see lots of people who claim they are too stiff to do yoga, but that’s like saying you are too dirty to take a bath. Adding practices like yoga can bring you a great deal more strength and ease of movement.”
Ultimately, Goldberg says, variety and open-mindedness are two of the most important ingredients in an effective fitness strategy for men. “I would say the ultimate routine is one or two yoga sessions, one or two high-intensity interval classes and one or two cardio-based classes per week,” he notes. “Any regimen should be based on people’s individual needs and goals. The idea is to build mobility, strength and flexibility as you age so you can continue to do the things that are important to you.”
Goldberg recommends Younger Next Year, a book series by Chris Crowley and Dr. Henry Lodge that includes fitness advice for both men and women. “The authors explain that if you exercise two or three times a week in a spinning or HIIT (high-intensity interval training) class, with your heart rate spiking and falling, you actually can train the brain to change the messages it gives to your body, with the goal of ‘tricking’ it out of aging,” Goldberg says. “Medical research has found that this method works until about age 72, and then the effects start to drop off.”
exercise tips for men as they age
- Instead of barbell presses, consider dumbbell presses. They may make more sense for aging connective tissues.
- Isolation exercises like bicep curls allow the body to recover quickly so you can train more often. They should be done twice a week.
- For every half hour you spend in the gym, spend an hour doing recovery techniques like yoga or foam rolling.
- Put a time or set limit on your workouts—for example, 45 minutes or 12 total sets. This will help the body recuperate more effectively so you don’t have to skip workout days.