Drew Woodmansee prides himself on being in shape. The San Diego lawyer played baseball in college and stays fit by running and cycling. He faithfully keeps his appointments with his trainer. But as he eases into his mid-30s, Woodmansee is noticing minor “knots and aches and pains,” he says. He used to bound out of bed and run five miles. Now he gets out of bed, stretches for half an hour and runs at the beach, which is easier on his joints.

As men age, their fitness needs change. The all-out basketball games played at 20 aren’t so painless played at 36. During middle age, weight begins to creep up as metabolism slows, and the fat that puddles around the midsection threatens the heart and other organs. Elderly men discover the importance of flexibility and muscle strength as the simplest tasks, such as getting in and out of chairs, can become a challenge.

A woman’s aging process is distinguished by particular physiological changes that demand specific workouts, such as resistance training to combat the osteoporosis that often occurs following menopause. But men don’t have such definitive markers and may realize they need to change their exercise routines only when they suffer a sprain that takes weeks or months to heal.

It’s vital, however, for men to keep exercising to maintain good health. One study, published last year in the Journal of Applied Physiology, found men ages 65 to 79 who did regular physical activity had far stronger immune systems than those of a sedentary control group. A separate Canadian study of 19,000 men discovered that those who exercised and were fit cut their risk of death by heart disease in half.

Men in their 20s are at the peak of their strength. That’s why many head for the gym and load up on weights, sometimes neglecting the cardiovascular aspects of their workout. But cardio is necessary at this stage to maintain heart and lung health.

Throughout their 20s and early 30s, men also aren’t giving much thought to things like warming up and stretching, says Dr. Jordan Metzl, a sports medicine physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. “They’re not seeing as much in terms of body decay,” he says, “so they’re not as good about doing preparation and cross training — even though they should — because they don’t feel they need it.”

At this stage, men should incorporate a variety of sports and activities into their cardio and weight routines, says Justin Price, a trainer who owns BioMechanics studio in San Diego. “Variety is important for cardio and weight-bearing exercises,” he explains, so the body doesn’t get used to the same repetitive movements. He advocates sports such as basketball or soccer, or activities such as kickboxing, all of which involve explosive movements as well as body rotation.

A sedentary lifestyle can creep up on guys in their 20s and 30s if they don’t adhere to a regular fitness program. If competitive sports become too strenuous or even dangerous, experts recommend segueing to less-demanding activities such as exercise classes, running or cycling.

Opting for sensible exercises over contact sports becomes increasingly important as men hit middle age. “This is a time when I hope a man’s underlying motivation for exercise might start to be a bit more mature,” says Cedric Bryant, chief exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise. “Think about why you exercise and start to look at the overall health benefits of being physically active.”

Developing a consistent workout that includes cardiovascular and strength training should be paramount, he says, to keep weight down and muscles strong. Men typically gain abdominal weight, which puts them at higher risk for heart disease and diabetes. Maintaining flexibility is vital as well, says Bryant: “That only gets more important with each passing year.” Yoga and Pilates are two disciplines designed to keeping joints supple, which helps prevent injury.

Workouts for men in their 60s and 70s should be geared toward functional fitness, or training the body to handle real-life situations, such as getting in and out of chairs or navigating stairs. That means relying less on weight machines and more on the body itself to maintain strength and balance, such as by lifting weights while on a stability ball.

Strength training is important, says David Haber, professor of wellness and gerontology at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. “If you let the muscles atrophy, sooner or later you’re going to lose the capacity to be independent,” he says. “If you don’t strengthen your quads and hamstrings, one day you’re going to struggle to get out of the chair.”

Although men generally don’t experience as much bone loss as women as they age, they can still suffer debilitating fractures and should strive to maintain good bone density. That can be done in part through weight-bearing exercises.

Aerobic activity continues to be important as well. Haber advocates mild activities such as brisk walking, riding a stationary or recumbent bike, or taking a moderately paced exercise class. One element that shouldn’t be ignored is the social aspect of exercise, which becomes more important at this stage in life. Mental health, he says, becomes entwined with physical health.

“If you lose your connections with people or religion, whatever’s important to you, if you lose that desire to do things, that also translates into losing physical activities,” Haber says. Although some men aren’t social creatures, even walking regularly with friends can stave off isolation and loneliness.

Newport Beach, Calif., trainer Nick Prukop, who specializes in working with older men and women, notices attitude changes in his clients who are 60-plus. “You’re not able to do things that you used to,” he says, “but you become more accepting and just happy to be at the club with your friends in an environment that is positive and uplifting.”

Men should be encouraged to begin an exercise program at any age, as studies have shown marked improvements in even severely out-of-shape elderly people. “The encouraging message is that it’s never too late to start,” says Bryant. “The only thing men need to understand is that Rome wasn’t built in a day. But just by making some simple lifestyle adjustments, men can have tremendous results.”

Choosing a strategy for each stage of life ...

Act your age. You may want to be 25 again, but your 45-year-old body can’t take it. If you tweak your fitness plan as you age, you can stay strong and flexible and reduce the risk of injury. After all, the best workout is the one you actually do — and it’s hard to exercise if you hurt yourself.

20s AND 30s ...

You’re strongest at this age, so push it and lay the groundwork for a healthy adulthood. This program, from San Diego-based trainer Justin Price, emphasizes plyometrics (swiftly contracting elongated muscles), cardio and strength training.


•Warm up for 5 minutes and do dynamic stretches, such as touching toes, lunging backward or twisting the upper body from the hips. 5 minutes.

•Three sets: 20 diagonal lunge with dumbbell reach, return to standing, then shoulder press; 20 side to side jumps over a Bosu ball; 10 to 12 bicep curl to shoulder press.

•Three sets: Jump rope for two minutes; wall sit — no chair, only your back on the wall — for one minute.

•Three sets: 15 push-ups to pike position then crawl on hands and feet forward and backward 10 yards.

•Three sets: Step-ups for 90 seconds; 10 reps of seated rowing; 10 lat pull-downs in squat position.

•Three sets with the fitness ball: 20 crunches; 10 to 15 roll-outs; 20 reverse crunches.

•Cardio workout on the elliptical machine for 5 to 10 minutes at high intensity.

•Five-minute cool-down and stretching.


•Take it easier. One hour of yoga or a 30-minute mildly paced swim or a one-hour moderately paced hike or walk.


•Five minutes of warmup and 5 minutes of dynamic stretching.

•Two sets: as many chin-ups as you can do; as many push-ups as you can, making sure to move the shoulder blades away from the spine at the top of the movement.

•Two sets: 10 to 12 reps of barbell rowing; 10 to 12 chest presses on stability ball, alternating arms with the dumbbell.

•Two sets: 10 to 12 standing bicep curls to shoulder press, alternating arms; bent at the waist, do 12 to 15 dumbbell raises toward the ceiling, working the deltoids.

•Two sets: 10 to 12 chest flies (alternating arms); 15 full lateral raises.

•Two sets: Hold push-up position with hands on a stability ball for one minute; Lying on side, raise hips and balance on lower arm for 30 to 60 seconds on each side; 50 bicycle kicks on Bosu ball.

•Static stretches: Hold each position for several seconds.


•One hour of a sport such as basketball, tennis, soccer, flag football or an hourlong kickboxing or tai chi class. Make sure to warm up and stretch.


•Five minutes of warmup and 5 minutes of dynamic stretches.

•Three sets: 10 to 12 bicep curls with barbell; 10 to 12 tricep presses lying on a stability ball with dumbbells.

•Three sets: 10 to 12 alternating standing dumbbell curls; 10 to 12 tricep push-downs.

•Three sets: 10 to 12 Preacher curls (resting arms against a slanted bench); 10 to 12 tricep presses lying on stability ball with dumbbells; 10 to 12 hammer curls (with hands parallel to the body); 10 to 12 tricep dips on a bench.

•Static stretches.

•Hot shower or bath followed by 10 to 15 minutes of relaxation or meditation.


•Exercise at a mild intensity for about an hour. Choose an activity such as a gentle swim, a slow walk, or an easy bike ride or hike.


•One to two hours of a favorite activity, such as Pilates, golf, tennis or running. It should be something different from other activities done during the week.

40s AND 50s ...

The challenge at this stage in your fitness is not to get bored. This program, devised by Ken Alan, a personal trainer and lecturer in kinesiology at California State University, Fullerton, emphasizes a variety of activities for cardio, weight training and flexibility.


•Warm up for 3 minutes.

•Medium- to high-intensity cardio activity, such as running, cycling, stair-climber or aerobics. 30 minutes.

•Cool down for 2 minutes and stretch for 5.


•Warm up for 3 minutes.

•Two sets: 8 to 12 lat pull-downs.

•Two sets: 8 to 12 incline dumbbell presses.

•Two sets per leg: 8 to 12 alternating forward lunges.

•One set of abdominal crunches until you hit momentary muscular failure.

•One set of back hyperextension to failure.


•Rest and recover. Doing some low- to moderate-aerobic activity (walking, gardening, cycling) is optional.


•Warm up for 3 minutes.

•Two sets: 8 to 12 back rows.

•Two sets: 8 to 12 incline dumbbell presses.

•Two sets: 8 to 12 barbell squats.

•Stretch for 5 minutes.


•Seven reps of interval cardio training: alternate two minutes of fast-paced activity (such as walking or running, or using a stair climber or elliptical trainer) with two minutes of mildly paced activity. Should be about 30 minutes.

•Two minutes of cool-down.

•Abdominal crunches: One set to failure.

•Back hyperextension: One set to failure.

•Five minutes of stretching.


•Engage in a sport or leisure activity such as organized games (golf, tennis).


•Rest and recovery. Some low to moderate aerobic activity is optional.

60s AND 70s ...

In your 60s and 70s, keep it real. That is, concentrate on functional fitness that helps you in your daily life. Newport Beach, Calif.-based trainer Nick Prukop, who works with older clients, gears their workouts toward strength training, balance and aerobics.

Monday and Friday

•Warm up for 5 to 10 minutes.

•Low- to moderate-intensity cardio workout, such as walking, cycling, or pool workouts. 20 to 30 minutes.

•Two sets, 12 to 15 reps each: leg extensions; leg curls; leg presses; calf extensions. These all increase strength.

•Work on balance for 5 minutes by walking toe/heel and standing on one leg (you can hold onto a chair for stability).

•Stretch for 5 minutes.

Tuesday and Thursday

•Warm up for 5 to 10 minutes.

•Low- to moderate-intensity cardio workout for 30 to 45 minutes.

•Three sets: 10 abdominal crunches done lying down or against a wall.

•Stretch for 5 minutes.


•Warm up for 5 to 10 minutes.

•Low- to moderate-intensity cardio workout for 20 to 30 minutes.

•Two sets, 12 to 15 reps each: wall push-ups or seated chest press; seated rows; lat pull-downs; front arm raises; lateral arm raises; seated bicep curls; wrist curls; finger flexion (opening and closing the fist); elevated tricep extensions; abdominal crunches.

•Five minutes of balance exercises.

•Stretch for 5 minutes.

Saturday and Sunday

•Engage in mildly paced recreational activities such as walking around a flea market, going on a short hike or gardening. Pay attention to your body and rest if needed.

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