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10 exercises you can do to reverse ageing

With age comes wisdom, but it can also bring back pain, poor mobility, and ever-increasing health issues. Of course, this is perfectly natural and has been the same throughout human history. But that doesn't mean that you can't fight the ageing process and ensure a pain-free retirement.

10 exercises you can do to reverse ageing
Matt Smith
· 9 min read

10 exercises you can do to reverse ageing: Your questions answered

  • How often should older people lift weights?

    2-3 times per week should be adequate, but it depends on how fit you are, how intense your workouts are, and your goals. A very fit older person could train five times per week without any downsides, provided their sleep and nutritionare in good order.

  • At what age should you stop lifting weights?

    Whether you lift weights should not be determined by your age but by your mobility and capabilities. Most people should be able to perform at least some sort of resistance training, even if it is just restricted to resistance machines such as the chest press. But if you are injury-free and fit, then you could deadlift in your 90s!

  • Can exercise make you look younger?

    Within reason. It can increase muscle mass, improve posture, and help you to lose body fat. All of these can help you look younger. But it won’t perform miracles. A 90-year-old who exercises won’t get ID’d when trying to buy a bottle of wine at Tesco!

  • Can you really reverse ageing?

    Not really, but you can slow down the process, and you can feel younger and look younger thanks to exercise and diet. Which amounts to the same thing.

The ten exercises provided below are designed to improve your strength and mobility, which will allow you more freedom and independence as you age. While no activity can truly turn back the clock, you can feel more energetic, reduce your risk of injury, and embrace life to the fullest extent.

The exercises below have been picked for people who have no injuries. If you have a bad shoulder or long-term knee injury, for example, you should talk to a physiotherapist who can design a specific program for your needs. If you are injury-free, then the following exercises are ideal, provided you perform them correctly.

Many of the exercises mentioned below require access to a gym. While it is possible for older people to exercise at home, a gym has many advantages. There are trained staff who can help you perform the movements correctly and well-maintained equipment. You can always walk to and from the gym for an extra workout each day, too!

Home gym workouts can be fun, but it can be tough to work the shoulders, back, and quadriceps safely using just bodyweight exercises. For an older person who hasn't exercised in 20-30 years, a lunge is significantly more challenging than using a leg extension machine.

Anti-ageing exercise #1: Farmer’s walks

The first exercise on this list is one of the easiest to learn. The idea is to hold a dumbbell in each hand, push your chest out, and walk for as long as you can. If you find that you can walk for longer than 30 seconds, the weight is too light. 

You can perform this exercise in the gym, provided it isn't too busy! However, it can also be performed outside with two shopping bags or at home with something heavy in each hand. Whatever you use, they should ideally be the same weight—swap hands halfway through if not.

Ensure that your chest is pushed out. This ensures perfect posture and will help to strengthen your lower back and abdominal muscles as you walk. In addition, the exercise will help improve your grip, which is very important as you age. Don't be surprised if your forearms are sore the next day!

Anti-ageing exercise #2: Dumbbell deadlift

The deadlift is probably the best exercise for improving health and mobility. Still, it is a challenging and highly technical exercise to learn. The dumbbell version is a lot easier to understand and can be performed with a much lighter weight.

If you master the dumbbell deadlift, then you may want to progress to barbell deadlifts. Getting a staff member at the gym to assess your form is a good idea, as bad form can lead to injury.

Check out the following YouTube video to perform this exercise perfectly. Don't pick a weight that is too heavy, but don't go too light, either. Most people who are over 60 with no injuries should be comfortable using a 10kg dumbbell, and you should be able to work your way up to 20kg within a few weeks.

Keep your chest pushed out throughout the movement, take a deep breath before lifting the weight off the floor, and breathe out as you rise. Remember to be careful when putting the weight away afterwards!

What's great about this exercise is how useful it is in real life. Once you can deadlift correctly, you can lift things around the house safely for the rest of your life because you know how to get into position and lift without stressing your spine.

Anti-ageing exercise #3: Box squat

The squat is an exercise that everyone should learn to do, and you're never too old! The box squat is ideal for older people because it helps remove any balance issues while also teaching you how to perform the movement safely.

All you need is a chair or bench. First, stand in front of it, facing away. Then, keeping your heels flat on the floor, slowly lower yourself down onto the chair. Pause when you reach it, and then rise back upwards. This is not the same as just sitting down; it is a controlled movement that will work your thigh muscles.

You can increase the difficulty by holding a weight or remove the chair and perform bodyweight squats. Keep your chest out, keep your heels on the floor, and stop when your thighs are parallel (or lower) to the floor before rising back up.

Anti-ageing exercise #4: Push up

Performing a full push up is one of the most impressive things you can do once you are perceived as "old". But with practice and some hard work, most people should be able to perform push-ups, no matter their age.

The trick with push-ups is to build up to them using easier versions. Push-ups where your knees are on the floor are a great place to start. But you can perform wall push-ups instead.

Building strength in your chest and triceps can help, too, so use a chest press machine when you're in the gym to prepare yourself.

Anti-ageing exercise #5: Cable face pulls

For this exercise you will need a cable machine, all gyms should have at least one. You will also need a rope attachment, and the cable needs to be at the highest setting. Put the weight low as this exercise is only supposed to be used as a warmup.

Check out this YouTube video to see how to perform the exercise correctly.

Face pulls are great for improving posture; they strengthen the muscles in your upper back and shoulders. If you want to perform push-ups (see above), this is a great warmup exercise.

Anti-ageing exercise #6: Lateral lunges

As we mentioned earlier, the lunge is an excellent quadricep exercise. Still, it can be tough to master due to balance issues. Lateral lunges are a great alternative. They are much easier to learn and require less balance and coordination. While still offering a good workout.

Stand upright with feet together, take a large step to the side and then lean so that one leg is straight while the other leg is bent. Return to the start and then repeat on the other side. You can grab a dumbbell or two to increase the resistance.

Anti-ageing exercise #7: Seated leg curl machine

Working your hamstrings is essential for improving your mobility and reduce the risk of injury. However, many of the exercises aimed at targeting the hamstrings can be challenging to learn and perform. Romanian deadlifts, Nordic curls, good mornings, and the like may be challenging for someone who hasn't exercised much in the past.

Luckily, the seated leg curl machine is both incredibly effective and easy to use. Just set yourself up and perform each rep nice and slowly with a squeeze of the hamstrings as you curl your feet towards you. If you are struggling to understand how to use the seated leg curl machine, ask a member of staff at the gym to show you.

Anti-ageing exercise #8: Leg extension machine

The leg extension machine is on this list for the same reason as the seated leg curl machine. Incredibly effective for older users and an excellent alternative to more technically challenging exercises such as walking lunges, front squats, split squats, and step-ups.

Using a leg extension machine is very simple, sit back in the seat so that your lower back is flush with the seat. When straightening your legs, do so slowly and with control. Pause at the top of the movement and then slowly return the pad to the starting position.

Get a fitness instructor from the gym to show you how to perform this exercise perfectly. Performing both leg extensions and leg curls (see above) will lead to a well-balanced set of thighs that are less likely to get injured in the future.

Anti-ageing exercise #9: Plank

A stronger set of abdominals is something that everyone should focus on, no matter their age. The plank is excellent for improving abdominal strength and is relatively easy to learn and perform. There are two main types of plank. The traditional plank, resting on your forearms, and the push-up plank, where you get into a push-up position.

The push-up plank is probably better suited here. Just get into position with palms flat on the ground around shoulder-width apart. Keep your hips high, but not too high. You want a nice straight line from your shoulders down to your ankles.

Try to keep in position for 30 seconds, then look to improve this over time. However, don't worry about trying to stay in position for much longer than a minute or two. Focus instead on keeping good form and squeezing your muscles hard.

Anti-ageing exercise #10: Underhand grip lat pulldown

The lat pulldown is an excellent upper back exercise; using an underhand grip will help to turn this into a back and biceps exercise. Check out this YouTube video of an underhand grip lat pulldown to see how best to perform it.

Sit at the lat pulldown machine, push your chest out, pull the bar down towards your chest. Pause, and then return the bar to the starting position.

How exercise can help reverse ageing

We've provided ten exercises that can help give you a new lease of life as you get older. However, it's not so much about what exercises you are following, but more about how often you exercise and how you choose to look after yourself.

We’ve previously written about creating a workout routine for over 50s. We've also looked at ways to train at home or train outdoors using fitness challenges as motivation. Ensuring that you are staying active will make a massive difference to how old you "feel" compared to how old you actually are!

Matt Smith
Matt Smith
Matt Smith is a fitness and nutrition writer who runs the website Beer n Biceps. He has a degree in Sports Science and was a personal trainer in London for several years.