Decade by Decade Fitness Guide

» Decade By Decade Exercise Guide: 20s-40s

Our bodies encounter natural changes as we age. Instead of prescribing a one-size-fits-all approach to fitness, experts say there are different considerations and goals for each decade of fitness. Exercise is the magic pill for staying youthful throughout the decades. Daily doses can reduce your risk of everything from stress, diabetes and obesity to heart disease, cancer and arthritis. At 50, you may not be able to push yourself as you did when you are 20; so it’s important that you keep this in mind to exercise safely at any age. Here is the best advice for working out each decade of your life.Your Twenties: Increase Your Strength & Prevent Weight Gain

30 Minutes of Weight Training, Followed By 30 Minutes of Cardio, 3x/Week

45-60 Minutes of Cardio, 3x/Week

Rest: One Day

In your 20s, you are strong, and have the ability to get much stronger, with little chance of injury (as long as exercises are selected carefully).You can also still get away with staying up late or eating junk, but it doesn’t mean you should. At this stage of the game, celebrity trainer Jeanette Jenkins recommends forgetting about looking like Halle Berry and aiming for an arbitrary number on the scale. “Think health,” she advises. Cardio and abdominal training are good things to add to your routine, but don’t forget about strength-training, which is most important in building definition, building bone density, and boosting your metabolism. The key is to use enough resistance with weights so that the last four (out of eight) reps are a challenge. To get killer abs, focus on eating lean meat like fish, with plenty of vegetables and fruits, and doing exercises like planks. Yoga classes and learning to slow one’s mind is also recommended at this stage.

Your Thirties: Use Exercise As Preventative Medicine.

60 Minutes of Cardio & Resistance Training, 4x/Week

45-60 Minutes of Cardio, 1x/Week

Rest: One Day

In your 30s, you’ll notice it’s harder to get rid of excess weight. Basal metabolism drops 1-2 percent every decade after 20 and it’s natural for lean muscle to decrease while body fat increases. Jillian Michaels, trainer on NBC’s The Biggest Loser warns, “You won’t see that big a difference between 31 and 39 if you’ve been living a healthy lifestyle, but if not, you’ll see a huge difference in muscle tone, weight, and shape.” You’ll need to work harder to stay fit, which is why circuit training is recommended. You should strength-train each muscle group twice a week with days in between sessions for recovery. Switch your technique to keep the body guessing – some days using more reps with lighter weights and other days using fewer reps and heavier weights. Spend more time standing, take the stairs and maintain good posture when you walk.

Your Forties: Ease Hormone & Metabolic Changes With Exercise.

60 Minutes of Weight Training, 3x/Week

45 Minutes of Cardio, 5x/Week

Rest: One Day

You’ll find gravity is pulling you down, your hormones are changing, muscle mass continues to decline and it’s easier to put on body fat – especially in the triceps, back and belly. Body composition typically changes in one’s forties, which is why more cardio is recommended. When weight training, increase your intensity by squeezing the muscle groups being worked. Pilates can help lean the mid-section, while squats and stair climbing keep the butt firm. Now it’s important to find exercise that is very satisfying on a deeper, psychological level. It’s about harmonizing mind and body to work for you, not against you.

» Decade By Decade Exercise Guide: 50s-70s

As we get older, exercise becomes more of a challenge as our energy levels diminish and our muscle mass decrease. However, it’s now, more than ever, known that exercise is vital to aging gracefully and living a healthy life. Here are a few tips for exercising into your fifties, sixties and seventies. If this doesn’t apply to you, it will probably apply to someone you love, so be sure to pass on this great information! There’s also more information regarding exercising at younger ages below, so keep on reading.

Your Fifties: Combat Aches and Pains With Exercise.

20-40 Minute Rigorous Cardio Sessions, 4-6x/Week

30 Minutes Weight Training, 2x/Week (8-12 reps), Stretching

During this time, metabolism slows to a crawl, with most women gaining an average of 12 pounds in the eight years following menopause. Both men and women tend to grow a “menopot” – a pot belly – at this stage of the game even if they’ve always been slender in the abdomen. Drooping muscle mass and tone really starts to show if you’re not committed to fitness. Posture changes, with the shoulders slumping. It’s important to keep your posture perfect with daily stretching: clasping your hands behind your back and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Weight training is also a “must” at this stage to keep muscle tone. Beginners should work with a certified trainer. You’ll want to hit all major muscle groups, paying close attention to specific areas that are weakest in your own body (your certified trainer will help you identify this). Even if you can’t hire a trainer, always look for ways to add more physical activity to your life, even if it’s just going for long walks or vigorously cleaning your house. Keep in mind that cardio sessions will require more recovery than you were used to, which means paying close attention to good nutrition. Also, don’t forget to stretch dynamically and warm up before – and particularly after – all classes.

Your Sixties: Use Exercise For Therapy.

Slow Jog, 3x/Week

Weight Training, 3x/Week (Lighter weights, slower)

Walk More Often, Stretch, Practice Balance Exercises Daily

By the time you reach your 60s, you are likely to suffer from arthritis, bad knees, spinal stenosis or other common problems leading to aches and pains. But don’t let that stop you from exercising. You may have to give up some of the more jarring exercises like running and begin focusing your efforts on jogging in the pool, swimming, or riding a stationary bike. Resistance training is still important, and heavy lifting should be under the careful eye of a certified trainer. Stretching, both dynamically and statically, should be a core component to the start and end of every workout, in addition to moves that strengthen your abdomen to protect your posture and keep your back healthy. Yoga, Bosu Ball and dance classes are great for overcoming physical changes during this decade of your life.

Your Seventies: Focus On Balance and Control.

Activities You Enjoy, 7x/Week

30 Minutes, Blend of Cardio, Core, Stretching & Light Strength Exercises Daily

In your 70s, you will want to do everything you can to keep your core strong, and improve your balance to prevent falls, which can be devastating. At this age, you’ll want to find activities you enjoy – be it yoga, Pilates and tai chi, Zumba, swimming or walking. You may find it advantageous to work with a trainer who can provide you with exercises that can improve stability, balance and strength, with various implements such as resistance bands, body weight and stability balls to maintain your muscle mass. Research shows that it’s never too late to start exercising to improve the quality of your life, and no matter what your age, exercise is always a good choice.


“Aging is not lost youth but a new

stage of opportunity and strength.”

Betty Friedan

Featured Recipe

Italian Zucchini Boats


  • 6 medium zucchini
  • 2 cups dry bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter or stick margarine, melted


  1. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise. With a spoon, scoop out and reserve pulp, leaving 3/8-in. shell. Cook shells in salted water for 2 minutes; remove and drain. Chop zucchini pulp; place in a bowl. Add the bread crumbs, eggs, tomato, Parmesan cheese, parsley and garlic. Stir in broth, salt and pepper. Stuff into zucchini shells.
  2. Place in a greased 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking dish. Drizzle with butter. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes or until golden brown.