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It is absolutely possible to get fit at the age of 60 and beyond, even if you never exercised before. Whether you can meet your definition of "slim and firm" is another matter. Besides being in the eyes of the beholder, how slim you are may be due to body type and heredity as well as the tendency for some people to add weight around the middle as they age. Skin loses elasticity as well, making "firmness" a little tougher to achieve. That said, regular exercise and building lean mass can protect your joints, benefit your cardiorespiratory health and elevate your mood. And if you feel better, you'll look better.
Get a complete physical and clearance to exercise from your physician. Find out if your physician wants you to lose weight, and if so, how much. Find out if you have any conditions that would affect the type of exercise you can do or the intensity level. If you have a special situation, like arthritis, that might affect your ability to exercise, consider hiring a personal trainer who, along with recommendations from your physician, will help you develop a plan.
Try out different types of cardio exercises -- walking, jogging, biking, group classes, swimming, gym cardio machines -- to find something you can do safely and that you enjoy. This will firm up your leg muscles as well as keeping you trim and your heart healthy. The Mayo Clinic and others generally recommend 150 minutes of moderate activity per week to maintain your weight and 300 or more minutes to lose weight. However, the Mayo Clinic also notes that it may take more activity to maintain weight as you age and, consequently, even more to lose weight.
Build gradually if you are just starting out and your doctor says it's OK. If you are new to cardio exercise, start with brisk walking -- you should be able to talk easily but not sing. Then increase either the time or the intensity -- to where talking is somewhat difficult.
Consume fewer calories. Over the age of 50, you may need as much as 200 fewer calories per day, according to the Mayo Clinic. At the same time, you have the same daily nutritional requirements and may require more of some nutrients like calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B-12. Since you need to get the same nutrition from fewer calories, you'll want to cut out empty calories from added sugars and solid fats.
Resistance train the major muscles at least twice per week. This means working your chest muscles, shoulders, back, abs, arms and legs against a weight, which could be bands, a barbell, dumbbells or your own body weight. Gym machines make a good start because they help you maintain good form to avoid injury and allow you to start at a low weight and build gradually. If even this is too much to start, or if you don't want the time or expense of a gym membership, try light-resistance exercise bands at home.
Challenge yourself continually. Start resistance training with one set of eight repetitions. Work up to 12 repetitions and then to another set. When you can do two sets of 12 repetitions easily, progress to a heavier weight or try a more difficult exercise. For example, move from a chest press machine to doing modified pushups on your hands and knees, then to full pushups on your toes.
- Low-impact cardio exercise like walking, water aerobics and elliptical machines will be easier on your joints.
- Adults over 60 should also include balance and flexibility exercise in their programs.