Getting started with Baby Boomer fitness

Mar 30, 2010 at 1:13 p.m. ET

Boomers, if you quickly broke your New Year’s resolutions of working out (perhaps never actually starting) and eating right (yes, we know, it’s hard to resist winter comfort food) you can recommit to your health as part of your spring resolutions. Starting a boomer fitness program now can get you conditioned as the weather warms and beckons you to get outdoors so when summer arrives, you’re ready to hike, bike, walk the green, and play with those energetic grandkids. Here’s a basic beginner’s workout for baby boomers and anyone who wants to start getting in shape for the summer season.

Baby Boomer at Gym

Strive for progress, not perfection

Baby boomers can benefit most from specific exercise tips unique to our age group. That well-known adage, "no pain, no gain" may be the mantra for folks in their 20's, 30's and even 40's, but for the 50-plus set, we have to be more mindful of aches, pains and potentially brittle bones.

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Working large muscle groups during your workouts is your best ammunition to get your body into high calorie burning mode and also helps you get the most effective workout in a shorter amount of time, particularly appealing and appropriate for beginning exercisers. Just remember to always start out slow, gradually adding more activity as you go along. It's progress not perfection that you are striving towards. No self-slandering and defeatism allowed; focus solely on a healthier and well-balanced life.

Baby boomer fitness baby steps

If you are just beginning to exercise after months or years of a fitness time-out, it's important for you to take baby steps and listen to your body. Jumping in with an overly enthusiastic attitude and doing too much can set you up for soreness, fatigue and even injury, so start out slowly and safely, adding more activity or intensity as you feel fit.

Baby boomer beginner's workout

Set a goal of doing some type of physical activity every day. The following cardio workout can be done four times per week and the strength training exercises should be done two times per week.

warm up

A warm up will ready your body and brain for exercise. Warming up will get your heart pumping, muscles moving and joints prepared for more intense exercise. Set your watch timer for 7 to 10 minutes and march or do a light jog in place. You can also powerwalk around the block. Move your arms up and down and pump them back and forth to warm up your upper body, too.


This is where you get to mix things up with a cardio interval segment. Set your timer for 10 to 20 minutes (remember, baby steps).

Do 1 set of 10 for each of the following intervals:

  • Knee ups or step ups using a bench
  • Squats
  • Walk the stairs or use the curb or a step stool
  • Squats

In between each interval, walk in place to recover. Gradually work yourself up to three sets.

As you are doing your cardio intervals, aim to keep your heart rate up and, if you feel out of breath, simply slow down, modify and finish out. Pace yourself and keep in mind that as you do more of this type of exercise, your endurance and strength will increase.

Cool Down

Slowly bring your heart rate down with easy walking and long, slow deep breaths. Cool down with stretches for your legs, core, back and arms.

Strength training

To improve your muscle strength, endurance and tone, as well as strengthen your bones, weight training or resistance training exercises are a must. Again, don't try to be Rocky Balboa the first day, ease into your fitness journey with light weights and do one set of 12 to 20 reps for the first week, gradually increasing to two sets. Be sure to include a warm up and cool down before each workout. Here's one full-body exercise to get you started.

Squat and shoulder press

Start position: Stand tall with your feet shoulder distance apart, a dumbbell in each hand, and arms to your sides.

Movement: Bend your knees and lower your hips like you are going to sit your rear into a chair until your knees are at about a 90-degree angle. As you straighten your legs, pushing through your heels, to come out of the squat, do a bicep curl with both arms. When you are standing tall again, raise your elbows forward and push your arms straight overhead. Slowly lower your arms to your sides and repeat.

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Get fit while having fun

Dancing is another excellent and fun way to get your heart rate up. Dancing will have your legs looking worthy of the most stylish summer wear before you know it. Just turn on your favorite tunes and dance without stopping for one song, then rest, dance to the next song, rest, dance, rest, dance until you can dance to four songs before resting. Whether or not you were a disco doll back in the day, you are never too old to start dancing. Need motivation? Watch a segment of Dancing with the Stars; it will have you marveling at all the dancers' physiques and motivate you to get grooving.

Just keep moving

Consistency is the key to any new habit, so whether you follow the ideas I've outlined here, do water exercises or just get up and walk the doggie, keep it up and before long, your muscular strength and tone will improve and a new and stronger you will emerge—just in time for the summer's sun.

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