How to improve your endurance over 60
This blog takes a step further in offering information on how to build up (or restart) your endurance after 60. We look at why it’s important to improve on your endurance, how much exercise you need and how often to find the ‘sweet spot’ of moderate-level intensity, plus a few other ideas to get you started.
Why it’s important to build or maintain your endurance as you age
Endurance exercises can increase your heart rate and breathing for an extended period of time and allow you to be active for longer periods of time to enjoy your days without getting tired. Some great endurance exercises include walking, hiking, jogging, cycling, kayaking, swimming, dancing, or playing tennis (just to name a few)… even chores around the house like mowing or sweeping can help improve your endurance. In return, this will make it easier for you to stay active for longer, walk or run further and faster, and explore more without tiring. Plus it will also should make everyday activities, such as gardening, shopping, walking up stairs, playing with children or playing sport a lot easier.
How much exercise, and how often?
Refer to your starting goals and build up your endurance gradually. If you haven’t been active for a long time, it’s especially important to work your way up over time. It may take a while to go from a longstanding inactive lifestyle to doing some of the activities in this section. But be patient, you’ll get there. And when you do, you’ll love yourself for it!
For example, start out with 5 or 10 minutes at a time, and then build up to at least 20 minutes of moderate endurance activity on most, preferably all, days. Every day is best.
Doing less than 10 minutes at a time won’t give you the desired heart and lung benefits. Remember that this is a minimum recommendation; some people will be able to do more.
Counting your steps
Fitbits, or step counters, can help you keep track of your endurance activity, set goals and measure progress. Aim for at least 10,000 steps per day.
Most inactive people get fewer than 5,000 steps a day, and some very inactive people get only 2,000 steps a day. Wear a step counter for a few days to see how you’re doing. You can use the endurance daily record in a diary or your phone to record your steps.
For example, as a stepping stone (pardon the pun). If you get:
- fewer than 5,000 steps a day — gradually try to add 3,000 to 4,000 more steps a day
- about 8,000 steps a day — you’re getting close to meeting the recommended activity
target; try gradually adding 2,000 more steps a day
- 10,000 or more steps a day — you can be confident that you’re getting an adequate
amount of endurance activity
- 10,000 steps a day comfortably — try for 15,000 steps a day, which would put you in the
Ways to measure your effort
The amount of effort you need to do an activity will depend on your starting point, including your fitness level, how strong you are and how active you’ve been. For example, walking a kilometer in 15-minutes will be a lot easier for someone who does it every day compared with someone who has never done it.
You can use these informal guidelines to estimate how much effort you are putting into your endurance activities.
- A moderate level of physical activity will cause your heart to beat faster with some shortness of breath, but you should be able to talk comfortably while being active. Examples include brisk walking, mowing the lawn, digging in the garden, or medium-paced swimming or cycling.
Remember, you should accumulate at least 20-30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days.
- A vigorous level of physical activity will cause your heart to beat a lot faster with shortness of breath, that makes talking difficult. Examples include jogging, rowing machine, basketball, tennis, squash or netball.
Water, water, water!
As you get older your body needs fluids, even though you may not feel thirsty. Be sure to drink water when doing any activity that makes you sweat. By the time you notice your thirst, you’re body will already be low on fluid levels. This guideline is important all year round, but it’s especially important in hot weather.
The key is to maintain your fluids as you exercise. Not by gulping half a liter of water when you realise you haven’t had water and notice you’re dehydrated. But remember, don’t consume too much water too early in your exercise. It’s a fine balance but you’ll work out your own body-to-water consumption.
Important note: If your doctor has told you to limit your fluids, be sure to check before increasing the amount of fluid you drink while exercising. For example, people with congestive heart failure or kidney disease may need to limit fluids.
Word of caution if you’ve been inactive for some time
- Remember that with age, sudden intense exercise may be a challenge for your heart. Try to prepare your muscles with a 10 minute warm-up before exercising.
- Monitor yourself for overexertion, which is indicated by shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness or getting that shaky feeling. Make sure you listen to your body!
- Make sure you increase your activity level gradually. Only add 5% – 10% increase to any workout. Think “posture” as much as you can during your workout. Good posture will help protect your joints and prevent any unnecessary injuries.
- Practice good breathing. Never hold your breath. Try to breathe in through the nose and out the mouth. Train.
- Remember, exercises will only show benefits if it is done regularly with the correct duration, frequency, and intensity. “Practice makes… permanent!” So don’t practice sitting on the couch!
While you’re here
read some of our other popular exercise articles on exploring the benefits of being active daily and finding your correct training range as we get older.
– Queensland Government Health, Ageing with vitality. Chapter 4; 73-77. Read more
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