This is Your Life

(Your) 60s

May 1, 2003
Outside Magazine

65: Allen Rice, yoga practitioner runner, and scuba diver: "I feel like I'm somewhere in my forties."

YOU TOOK A LITTLE TIME OFF from working out? Maybe a couple of decades? Don't panic, it's not too late. "I lived in Southeast Asia for 18 years, smoking and drinking and carousing and falling out of shape," says ex-Olympic swimmer Jeff Farrell, 66. Returning to the hyperfit environs of Southern California, however, kicked him back into gear. Within a few years, he was setting new masters swimming records.

"Exercise isn't a bulletproof vest, but it maximizes your potential for a healthy future," says Wojtek Chodzko-Zajko, professor of kinesiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and president of the International Society on Aging and Physical Activity.

The Bad News Exercise and a healthy lifestyle now represent the difference between life and looming mortality. Between 60 and 79, your chances of getting cancer are one in three. But scientists believe that a full third of cancer-related deaths could be prevented through improved diet and a regular fitness regimen.

For those of you who never retired the gym bag, you've lost 25 percent of your peak power but can still make gains in hamstring flexibility. Your reaction time is 20 percent off its peak of decades ago, but you've got more fast-twitch muscle fiber remaining than was once thought possible. Arthritis affects more than 4.3 million men over 65, but studies indicate that a weight-lifting regimen eases impressive amounts of discomfort—more than 40 percent.

The Good News Science indicates that a return to training at any age reverses the effects of poor health and brings you back to solid form. In a study begun in 1966, researchers gave a fitness test to five healthy men, all in their twenties. Thirty years later, the men were tested again after participating in a moderate six-month endurance training program. The results showed that the subjects' VO2 maxes reached their levels of 30 years ago.

The Prescription Build up the muscles around your joints to ward off pain caused by osteoarthritis with squats, step-ups, and leg extensions three times a week.Eat foods rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids—such as salmon and albacore tuna, as well as olive oil and flaxseed oil—to reduce tissue inflammation caused by arthritis.Cross-train with tai chi to utilize your body's full range of motion and keep your neuromuscular network in tune.

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