The definition of the best workout
Uber Images/Shutterstock"Ultimately the best workout for any age needs to be one that fits your time constraints and that you enjoy," says Kyra Williams, NASM-certified personal trainer and coach for USA Weightlifting and USA Powerlifting. "If it doesn't work for your schedule, it's hard to get to, and if you tend to be all or nothing, you will end up with nothing." The key, experts say, is to find something that you can stick to long term. Finding something that boosts your energy and your mood will fit that bill.
The 20s workout
bbernard/ShutterstockBe sure to incorporate cardio, weight training, balance work, and stretching, says Rachel Straub, MS, CSCS, co-author of Weight Training Without Injury. She suggests sneaking in cardio at least three to five days a week, whether you prefer running, swimming, cycling, or walking. "Finding a form of cardio exercise that you enjoy—and can do properly and consistently, preferably for life—is most important," she says. She also recommends weight-training at least two days a week, challenging all major muscle groups: back, chest, arms, core, shoulders, and legs.
20s focus: Consider cross-training
Jacob Lund/ShutterstockYour body is most likely in its peak physical condition and is ready to tackle any challenge you throw its way. Your muscles will recover quickly—more so than it will in future decades—which is why one of the best workouts is cross-training. "This is when you combine both anaerobic (strength/resistance training) with aerobic (cardio) elements," explains James Shapiro, an NASM-certified personal trainer based in New York City. "Think of this being more of your foundation for the rest of your lift—you'll learn how to perform movements with proper technique." Learn the one move that fitness experts say transformed their body.
20s focus for women: Get into weight training
Elena Nichizhenova/ShutterstockToo few women at this age reach for weights, says dietitian and nutritionist Roger E. Adams, PhD, founder of eatrightfitness.com. "I push all my young woman in their 20s to lift weights and do other load-bearing activities as much as possible, not only to improve body composition and build muscle, but to increase bone density during this critical period," he says. "Incorporating weight lifting using large muscle groups are key." He recommends adding squats, deadlifts, standing presses, and other powerlifting-type movements to your workouts. Just watch out for these 15 common weight-lifting mistakes.
20s focus for men: Do yoga
fizkes/ShutterstockWhile yoga is an excellent exercise for the body, mind, and soul no matter your age, it can be especially beneficial when practiced in your 20s. "Men in their 20s need to establish flexibility and mobility, particularly in today's current culture, where we sit more than ever before and are glued to our smartphones," says certified personal trainer Chris Ryan, founder of Chris Ryan Fitness. "Yoga will lead to healthier posture, spinal alignment, and looser muscles—especially amongst men, who have more muscle mass in their chest and shoulders compared to women, which causes tightness with excessive sitting." Learn about the yoga moves that will help you lose weight.
The 30s workout
Lucky Business/ShutterstockYour body is no longer at its peak, and you might feel it takes longer to recover from workouts. For this reason, Shapiro recommends you add resistance training at least twice a week if you haven't already. "This is particularly an important time for women to start resistance training to offset any potential future complications from osteoporosis or arthritis," he adds. Do this in addition to interval-based cardio like spinning at least three times a week. Find out why high-intensity interval training is better than steady cardio.
30s focus: Get some coaching
Goami/ShutterstockYou're already starting to lose muscle: A study published in Muscle, Ligaments and Tendons Journal found that muscle mass and strength begin their steady decline once you turn 30. But you can slow that consequence of aging, says Ryan. People lose strength faster than they lose muscle, he explains, which suggests a loss of muscle quality—and that can be fixed by strength training. Ryan recommends getting a coach to help with your form and adding a variety of functional lifts like presses, pulls, squats and deadlifts. Check out these 14 incredible benefits of strength training.
The 40s workout
g-stockstudio/Shutterstock"If you are only doing cardio exercise—which is a tendency for many—it's time to add strength training exercises, at minimum," Straub says. "With age, bone density tends to decline, as does strength and muscle mass, so now more than ever, strength training exercises are essential to add to your routine." Along with moderate-intensity cardio most days, aim for at least two days a week of strength training, working all major muscle groups each time.
40s focus: Take a hike
Olga Danylenko/ShutterstockThink of exercise the same way you do retirement planning: Starting late is better than never starting at all. If you haven't already found a workout you love, hiking is a great pick. Just don't jump in too quickly, warns Shapiro. "The gradient of your hike should be based upon your fitness level," he says. "The goal here is to create more aerobic challenges and strength in your legs and hips, and gradually build up both distance and incline to avoid injury." As a bonus, this is why hiking is one of the best things you can do for your brain.
The 50s workout
ESB Professional/Shutterstock"Our bodies start to slow down the process of bone and muscle development," says Shapiro. This is why the most important exercise here is—you guessed it—to continue resistance training, primarily for hips and shoulders. "Resistance or strength training improves bone density and has been shown to slow the aging process with the loss of lean body mass," he says. "Both men and women should perform consistent training to see tangible results." Schedule 30 minutes of walking at least five days a week, too. You can break up the 30 minutes into three 10-minute sessions if that's easier on your joints.