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We all know the importance of exercising regularly. Studies have shown that staying active can improve heart health, ease anxiety and even help you get a better night's rest. But as you get older, the practice becomes even more vital.
Certified personal trainer and TODAY contributor, Stephanie Mansour said that as we age, "we need exercise, more than ever, to help not only just maintain a healthy weight but also to maintain your overall health." As you get older, your bone density starts to decrease. "Doing things like strength training that helps build your muscle, which then hugs the bone and makes the bones stronger, is really important," she said. A regular fitness routine can also help counteract some of the natural decreases in metabolic rate that come with age, as well as the loss of muscle mass that some people experience during the stages of menopause.
However, the exercises that you were doing as a 20-year-old might not be the same ones that you feel comfortable doing as a 50-year-old. Generally, Mansour said that for people over 40, she recommends focusing on lower-impact exercises like strength training, Pilates and yoga.
"In my experience, it's important to keep your workouts low impact as you're getting older because many of us suffer from aches and pains, joint stiffness or other physical conditions that make things like repetitive jumping or lots of impact on the joints painful to our bodies," Mansour said. Focusing on these lower-impact exercises that don't put as much pressure on the joints allows you to get in a total body workout, without all the soreness and recovery time that you'd get with higher impact exercises, she added.
Of course, if you're more inclined toward HIIT workouts (or are a regular at your local cycling studio), don't let that stop you. Everyone is an expert on their own bodies and knows what they can handle best, Mansour said.
Regardless of what you're doing, if you're hoping to create a more regular fitness routine, it can be helpful to have equipment at home. It's more convenient and leaves less room for excuses, Mansour said (you can't complain about how far away the gym is if it's right in your living room). Here, she shared with us some of the essential at-home fitness tools that will help you stay in shape as you age.
If you don't already have one, Mansour recommended adding a yoga mat in your at-home fitness arsenal. She likes this one because it's sticky (to prevent you from slipping), firm and inexpensive. Plus, it's available in seven fun colors and comes with a carrier sling, so you can take it with you on the go. Whether you're doing a yoga flow or a core circuit, you'll appreciate having this mat on hand.
Dumbbells can be used for both high-intensity and lower-intensity workouts, Mansour said. She recommends this pair, which comes in multiple colors and weights. Not sure what to do with your dumbbells? You can try the below strength-training workout, which will target your arms, core and legs.
While you might not be familiar with a Pilates ring, Mansour said that the tool can be great for working your arms, inner thighs, and outer hips, depending on how you use it. You place it in between your thighs to challenge yourself further during a Pilates or floor core routine, or you can place it outside your ankles and cycle through some Pilates exercises that way.
Resistance bands are another great tool to incorporate into your routine. Any kind with handles should work, Mansour said, but if you're looking for just one band (instead of multiple that will take up space in your drawers), she recommends starting off with this light band, which she said can be used to work your arms and back.
Like the Pilates ring, Mansour said that shorter resistance bands can help you improve balance and stability, which are important as you get older. We like this set, which has more than 9,700 five-star ratings and comes in five resistance levels, so you can rotate through them to adjust the intensity of your workouts.
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