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These are the best workouts for each decade of your life

Updated February 27, 2024 - 5:53 pm

Let’s face it: With age comes a lot of changes mentally and physically. Many people feel like they have endless energy in their 20s. Fast-forward a few decades to your 40s and 50s, and the fatigue starts to set in and joint pain begins. And needless to say, staying active becomes more difficult.

But the good news is that you can benefit from exercise at any age — it just requires choosing the right workouts for your body and physical fitness level. Here are the best workouts for each decade of your life.

In your 20s: Upper body exercises, strength training

At this age, it’s good to specifically target the shoulders and back with exercises such as lat pulldowns, banded pull-apart and skull crushers. These exercises are great at correcting posture such as a forward head position (sometimes called “tech neck”).

Working on these exercises early can help eliminate upper back pain and even improve some issues caused by teenage scoliosis or sitting in rigid school desks, explains Matt Scarfo, a National Academy of Sports Medicine-certified personal trainer.

For this age group, strength training is essential, as is building good posture.

“This is a time when most people are still growing into their bodies, so an emphasis on strength training makes a lot of sense, even for people who aren’t dedicated athletes,” says Caroline Grainger, an International Sports Science Association-certified personal trainer. “This will help to build your body’s strength, stability and injury resilience in later years — as long as you keep good exercise habits.”

In your 30s: Deadlifts

People start complaining about lower back pain during their 30s, so it’s time to correct it with workouts that specifically target and build those muscles. Deadlifts are one of the best workouts you can do to build your lower back so that you don’t have problems rounding your spine as you sit and age, Scarfo says.

New moms and dads will also love deadlifts because they can help them get better at picking up their kids. When you brace to pick up a heavy deadlift, you can also trigger your pelvic floor, which is important for new moms recovering from childbirth.

In your 40s: Squats and yoga

We know that people complain about their knees hurting as they age, and that means it’s more important than ever to practice squatting properly. Squats, whether they are weighted or not, can help build the muscles around the knee so they are strong and stable as you age, Scarfo explains.

Squats and deadlifts are also some of the workouts that build the most muscle in the body, and it’s important to prioritize muscle growth since people start to lose muscle mass after they turn 30.

If you build a strong base in your 20s and 30s, this is a period of your life when maintenance through cardio, combined with a strong emphasis on stretching and yoga for flexibility, will serve you well, Grainger says.

In your 50s: Core work

As people age, we know they fall more easily. Nothing builds and improves balance like working on your core muscles. Taking the time to do planks, standing knee raises, marching and Russian twists will help ensure that you can stay active later in life with a great foundation that will keep you on your feet and out of the hospital, Scarfo says.

60s and up: Cardiovascular activity

Staying active in any way is essential as you age. But focusing on strength work as you get older can make some people nervous. Cardiovascular exercise in your 60s and beyond can keep your heart healthy and keep you moving regularly, Scarfo says.

Whether you like to walk around the neighborhood, bike, swim or run, these heart-healthy activities will keep your energy up and can help prevent weight gain.

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