How to Stay Fit at 60: It’s Never Too Late to Start Training
Five years prior, at the age of 40 and in the midst of a mental health crisis, Eugene Charlesworth entered a gym for the first time. He claims that the gym saved his life and that his experience demonstrates that it is never too late to begin exercising.
“I was in a very dark place at the time.” When I hit my breaking point, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep living. I was falling apart when a friend of mine who was highly into the gym scene took me with him. It struck me as complete nonsense. But I persisted.
He has continued since then. Charlesworth claims that at first, he concentrated on compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, and clean and jerks as a rapid way to get in shape and burn body fat. But as he noticed his physique changing, he gained self-assurance and discovered a helpful outlet for his issues.
“When you pick up and hold that bar, you can use all of your aggression.” You don’t use it on others after it passes through the machinery like a charge.
Charlesworth is now much happier and healthier, and his exercise is still keeping him in shape at the age of 60.
Squats and clean and jerks are still a part of his routine, but deadlifts are now categorically off the table because he had to make some tweaks to it.
‘It’s just too dangerous as your body becomes more brittle and your muscles tear more easily as you get older,’ he explains. ‘Plus it takes much longer to recover from injuries.’
As Charlesworth’s aged, he’s also added more cardio into his routine and recommends other men do the same as they grow older. ‘We all tend to become less active as we get older, so keeping your cardio going is really important,’ he says.
Charlesworth has changed his training over the past 15 years, but he doesn’t think the fitness business has. He laments the gym’s lack of diversity and finds it unsettling that he is the only (nearly) senior citizen in the weight room. He is an advocate for the positive effects exercise may have on mental health and thinks more needs to be done to make gyms inclusive of all people.
‘There’s just no vision for different types of people. It’s not changed in 15 years – and if anything, it’s got worse. I want to help people who are scared to walk into a gym. It upsets me so much that we have so many gyms but they’re so off-putting for so many people.’
In order to combat this, he advises gym goers to be welcoming to strangers, greet the person sitting next to you, and “stop walking around like you have two carpets under your arms.”
He has this message for everyone who feels threatened by gyms full of people who, quite plainly, like him:
‘Don’t let anybody fool you into thinking someone has the perfect life. Mental health is just as important. Do you want to function and be happy? Or have a six pack and be mentally unstable? The gym is not all about pumping iron – it gave me a good path when I was so close to going down a bad one.’
And how will Eugene be celebrating being fit at 60? With a cruise, of course. ‘I’ve already got a smile on my face as I can see myself walking around the ship at 60 – and I will have a pair Speedos on,’ he laughs.
How Often Should a 60 Year Old Workout?
The answer to this question will mostly depend on your background, personal tastes, and level of training. For instance, you might need a few additional rest days in your program if you’re training at a high intensity yet are brand-new to strength training. It will also depend on how much time you have available. Nobody likes to get up early for a workout they detest; the most important things are that it suits your schedule and that you enjoy it. Additionally, research has indicated that two weekly sessions are all that is necessary to make growth.
According to an excerpt published by Human Kinetics, ‘Strength development is enhanced by training the same muscles again two or three days after the last workout. The actual amount of recovery time needed to achieve maximum muscle-building benefit will vary because of individual differences.’
This is further corroborated by a study on adult and senior individuals that were published in the Physician and Sports Medicine Journal, which found that after 10 weeks of strength training, there were no differences in muscle gain between the two and three days per week exercise groups. Therefore, while training to be fit at 60, two gym visits per week should be sufficient because the differences in muscle gain between training two and three days per week are minimal.
What Is the Best Workout for Over 60?
Ty Paul is a top-tier trainer with years of expertise working with athletes over the age of 60. He gave us his top six workouts for keeping gym goers in shape at 60, which you can incorporate into your training regimen.
Paul recommends: ‘Government guidelines suggest that we should perform some form of physical activity every day. You should seek advice from a GP if you haven’t exercised for a while. Recent studies have proven that weight-bearing exercises are integral for people aged 60 and over to help improve their bone density and maintain muscle mass.’
Squats x 8-12 reps and 3 sets
Paul recommends: ‘The first exercise I would recommend is Squats. For beginners, I would start by sitting on a chair and lifting myself into a standing position. Work on completing a full range of movement so that you maintain your flexibility as you get older. Prevention is better than the cure and as we get older simple tasks such as getting up from a chair could prove difficult. Start by doing three sets of eight-12 reps and then gradually start to increase your weights once three sets of 12 become easy.’
Arnold Press x 8-12 reps and 3 sets
Paul recommends: ‘With modern day living we hardly ever find the need to lift our hands above our head. Using our mobile phone’s, tablets, eating our dinner or reading the newspaper are all examples of this. The Arnold press will help us maintain a nice range of movement in our shoulders allowing us to keep good posture.’
Lunges x 8-12 reps each side and 3 sets
Paul recommends: ‘Static lunges will help work on your leg strength while giving you the opportunity to work on your balance. Perform the exercise slowly and controlled, remember our goal is to improve our strength not to bulk up.’
Face Pulls x 8-12 reps and 3 sets
Paul recommends: ‘This exercise is a great exercise to help retract the shoulders and improve posture. As we get older we lose flexibility, but by performing this exercise for eight-12 reps three times a week it will reduce the chance of kyphosis. This move is also fantastic for improving rotator cuff strength.’
Plank x 45-second holds and 3 sets
Paul recommends: ‘The Plank is incredibly important to work on your core when you are over 60 in order to help stabilize and improve balance throughout your whole body. A strong core will improve your posture but also help if you suffer from lower back pain. Perform three x 45-second holds with 45 seconds rest in-between sets. Work up to performing a full plank but lower yourself onto your knees if you are struggling to hold the exercise. Make sure that if you feel any pressure or pain in your lower back you either stop or reduce the intensity of the exercise by dropping to your knees.’
Kettlebell Rack and Press x 8-12 reps on each side and 3 sets
Paul recommends: ‘The kettlebell rack and press will combine all the above exercises into one. The rack and press as an all-over body exercise will elevate your heart rate, which will, in turn, help improve your cardiovascular fitness. It also has the added benefit of ticking the box of it being a weight-bearing ring exercise, thus maintaining muscle mass and bone density. Try three sets of 8-12 reps each hand and increase your weights when this becomes too easy. I have seen astonishing improvements from fitting these simple exercises into a weekly routine. If you feel the need for group motivation or advice on techniques, I recommend joining the community at our Over 60’s Class.’