FITNESS FRIDAY: Adapting workouts as we age

Sherry Sweitzer

I’m lucky because I have always enjoyed exercise. I became a group fitness instructor back when high impact aerobics was actually a competitive sport! Crazy, right?!

Everyone was jumping, stepping and sliding their way to better health. Exercisers craved and participated in heart pounding workouts, regardless of how their joints felt afterwards.

It wasn’t until I turned 50 that I realized it was time to modify my workouts. For decades I had focused on what I enjoyed most, cardio and strength workouts, while neglecting flexibility and mobility training. My body was less resilient post-workout and I was always sore. I experienced lingering knee and lower back pain and my old injuries kept resurfacing. I knew that in order to continue to exercise without sacrificing intensity, I needed to train smarter.

I first swapped high impact workouts with lower impact options. I now include interval, indoor cycling, rebounder (an individual trampoline), rowing and low impact classes into my routine and found that these safer options were equally effective in raising my heart rate.

I modified my strength workouts to include Pilates, which honestly happened by chance when I was invited to try a Pilates equipment class out. The class consisted of people ranging in age from 20-70 who executed a sequence of moves using springs as resistance with ease. They successfully maneuvered themselves into the required positions while I struggled. My stiff muscles and joints prevented me from doing many of the exercises because I had focused on aerobic endurance and heavy weight training for so many years. It was clear that the exclusion of stretching and mobility exercises from my exercise regimen was to blame and I needed to do something to change it.

But why? Being able to perform functional exercises - those moves needed to accomplish daily tasks - is key to exercising into our later years. Ideally, joints need to move in an uninhibited motion so that greater muscular range may be achieved; lengthening the muscles is equally important. Creating a workout to include joint movement and stretching should be included in everyone’s exercise plan, regardless of age. Training that includes a modality such as Pilates encompasses strength, flexibility, mobility and balance moves, and can even be aerobic depending on the structure of the class. It may also be done safely as one ages.

No matter your fitness level or age, it is important to incorporate cardiovascular, strength and stretching/mobility moves into your workout. Be cognizant of what your body is telling you as you age and modify accordingly. Age is inevitable but feeling old is preventable! Expanding your mindset and weekly routine as you age is crucial to your fitness journey and overall health and wellbeing.

Sherry Sweitzer is a group fitness instructor at Privé-Swiss Fitness, an award-winning, upscale, boutique fitness studio, located at 1587 Boston Post Road, Westbrook, 757 Boston Post Road, Madison and 57 Main Street, Ivoryton (coming soon); phone: 860-391-8735; website:

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