Dear Doctor: I wonder, as a 67-year-old woman, whether my workout routine would be considered too strenuous? I walk six miles and use weight machines five days a week, and do an hour each of yoga, Zumba, cardio and stretching each week. This routine has helped me lose 27 pounds and get off of blood pressure medicine. Do you think I need to slow down?
Dear Reader: That's quite an impressive regimen for age 67! As long as you're in good health and enjoy what you're doing, we see no reason that you can't continue. That said, there are a few things for you to consider that can help you evaluate your exercise routine both now and in the future.
We have multiple goals when we exercise. On the physical side we want to increase muscle, decrease body fat, enhance agility, flexibility and coordination, and improve heart and lung function. (And for those of you lucky enough to be in peak physical shape, you exercise to maintain it.) However, thanks to the more-is-better mentality that can overtake any program of self-improvement, it is indeed possible to do too much. Gauging whether you fall into that category is a bit more complex than just deciding that a list of activities looks too long or daunting.
Our bodies and minds are not at all shy about letting us know when we're overdoing it. On the physical side, signs that you may want to ease up include being unable to continue to perform at the same level, persistent aches or pains, fatigue during and after exercise, loss of appetite, repeated injuries and increased susceptibility to colds. Mental effects can include poor or disrupted sleep, loss of interest or motivation, as well as anxiety, irritability or depression.
Because we're generally working to improve when we exercise, a certain amount of discomfort can be part of the process. But if a workout leaves you worn out to the point that you no longer feel the physical and emotional benefits or have lost the emotional afterglow that so often accompanies physical achievement, then it's time to reassess.
If you begin to experience any of the symptoms or side effects we just discussed, either physical or mental, then you should consider making some changes. You can cut back a little bit on frequency or intensity, include an additional day (or two) of rest or swap out an activity with variations that will help keep things fresh. Right now, you have included all three elements of a well-rounded exercise routine -- cardio, resistance and flexibility. If you do decide to make changes to your routine, be sure to maintain that same balance.
It's clear from the weight loss you cited and the improved blood pressure that has allowed you to stop taking medication that you're reaping a number of physical and emotional benefits from your current approach. We suspect that your family and friends are a bit in awe of what you do and what you have achieved. Just remain aware of what your body and mind are telling you and adjust accordingly.
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