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Published: Sunday, April 28, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Vitality: Your exercise should change as you age

Workout programs are like 401(k)s: They need to be re-balanced over the decades, fitness expert Tom Holland says.
"As we age, we need to gradually take out the risk and put in more 'blue chip' elements," he said. These four basic yet effective exercises -- a squat, pushup, bicep curl and abdominal crunch -- should remain in your program as long as you can perform them correctly, Holland said.
Experts say the ideal for healthy aging should include a combination of aerobic, strengthening and flexibility exercises. Balance exercises are also vital to help prevent falls, which can lead to fractures.
Here's how to reduce the risk in your exercise portfolio:
If you're a runner
Train like a triathlete, Holland said, because if you only run, you'll be forced by injury to switch to swimming and biking to rehabilitate overuse injuries.
Swimming is beneficial because "your posture and body weight is horizontal to gravity, so you work many muscles that receive little attention when running or can become weak and prone to injuries, such as the hamstrings, abdominals and low back," said Michele Olson, a professor of exercise physiology at Auburn University at Montgomery, Ala.
If you're a swimmer
Add gravity. Be sure to incorporate strength training, walking or anything weight-bearing to help prevent the loss of bone density, said Pete McCall, an exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise.
Spend an equal amount of time on your back to help balance out the curves of the spine, recommends Jill Murphy, a physical therapist and licensed athletic trainer in Neenah, Wis. Adding backstroke into the mix "will stretch your pectoral muscles and work the muscles between your shoulder blades that help stabilize your spine and maintain your posture all day long," she said.
If you're a cyclist
Run. "Cycling mainly involves the quadriceps muscles while running is primarily a hamstring activity," Holland said. "When either of these muscles is too strong, injury occurs. Combining biking and running keep these muscle groups balanced, which keeps you injury-free."
If you don't work out
Start moving. "Don't worry about weights, just get up and walk or try something fun like Zumba," McCall said. Start with a form of cardio, such as walking, spinning or using a cardio machine. Adopt a good core-building activity, such Pilates.
Holland recommends exercise DVDs. "They're ridiculously inexpensive now, you don't have to leave home to exercise and you can find everything from tai chi to P90X," he said. "And, if you press play enough, they really work."
Story tags » HealthFitnessSenior issues

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