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A 68-year-old athlete shares 5 workout rules that keep him young, fit, and energized

Gabby Landsverk   

A 68-year-old athlete shares 5 workout rules that keep him young, fit, and energized
  • National Senior Games athlete Paul Ostermann said working out has kept him healthy and energized.
  • He works out six days a week, including weightlifting and mobility exercise with cardio.

Paul Ostermann doesn't just want to be a centenarian — he plans to stay competitive every step of the way.

"When you stop moving, you start dying," 68-year-old Ostermann told Business Insider.

Ostermann, an Ohio resident, has been competing in the Senior Games, a national sports competition for people over 50, since he retired from teaching science more than a decade ago. Along the way has won more than 60 state championships in eight different events.

He believes his passion for fitness has kept him healthy and vibrant over the years. "I'm almost never sick and haven't been for many years. I have a high energy level. I am convinced that regular exercise keeps me mentally sharp and physically sharp," Ostermann said.

But you don't need to be at his level to reap the same rewards. While he has always been athletic — he wrestled and played baseball in college, played softball, and coached for four decades — Ostermann said short, simple workouts have a ton of benefits, if they're consistent.

"People can live longer and happier if they're exercising regularly, even if they don't exercise the way I do," he said. "If they just get out there for 20 minutes to get their heart rate up, three days a week, they'll be so much better off."

Ostermann shared his current exercise routine, how he's dialed in his training for peak performance and longevity, and his best advice for getting in shape for years to come.

Include a mix of strength training and cardio in your workouts

Ostermann said his workout regimen is six days a week, and can include resistance training, biking, sprints, and power walking.

But don't be intimidated.

The key takeaway from his routine is that he does plenty of compound exercises — simple moves with strengthen multiple muscle groups at once.

Bench presses, military presses, and bodyweight moves like pull-ups all help to build a strong core and good stability. That is a key factor in longevity since it can help prevent dangerous injuries like slips and falls as you age.

Workout splits can help you get more out of each gym session

Ostermann follows a workout split — a technique that can help you make faster gains working multiple muscle groups at once.

He dedicates some workouts to the upper body and others to the lower body. You can use this technique even if you only work out two days a week instead of six.

Upper body days include weight-lifting moves like bench presses and military presses. Lower body workouts may be exercises like leg extensions, calf raises, or leg presses (after back surgery, Ostermann said he can no longer do heavy squats, deadlifts, or power cleans). In total, he rotates around 39 weight-lifting movements.

Ostermann also said he works on his mobility, another key factor in longevity. Using time-saving mobility exercises in your workouts can help you prevent injury and live longer, a personal trainer previously told Business Insider.

Set a goal to keep you consistent

Ostermann said he still has days when he doesn't feel like hitting the gym. What gets him moving again and again is having a goal.

"I love to compete and it's so much easier to go to the gym or the track every day when you got something to work for," he said.

But more important than spending hours in the gym each week is keeping up a habit over time, and Ostermann's top tip is not to take on too much, too fast.

"It's a lot easier to stay in shape when you do it consistently, which is where most people screw up. They come in, and they work out too hard, they lift too much, and they get sore. People when they work out, they need to start slow, slowly add to it," he said.

Plan your workouts in phases

Ostermann said his workouts change from the offseason to the on-season as the Senior Games approach.

A training cycle helps elite athletes make the most of their workouts for their sport, but it can pay off even if you're an everyday athlete who just wants to get a little healthier because it allows you to stay focused and track your progress.

Planning your workouts ahead of time also helps prevent injury and burnout by cutting out "junk volume," spending extra time and effort in the gym that doesn't benefit you, trainers previously told Insider.

Ostermann said the majority of people don't need to train as hard as he does.

Find a workout buddy or community

Ostermann said he goes to a gym with world-class athletes like bodybuilders and MMA fighters, which inspires him to push himself.

"It's so much easier when you got two or three guys down from you that are lifting, and they're working hard and you don't want to be outworked," he said.

He's also a member of SeniorSneakers, a nationwide fitness program with in-person and online classes available through Medicare to adults 65 and older (including those new to exercise).

Working out with a friend or group is one of the best ways to stay on track, according to Ostermann, and research backs it up.

"It really helps most people if they can find a partner to work with," he said.

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