DEAR DR. ROACH: I am a 69-year-old man, in pretty good health. I have some normal age-related arthritis in my hand. I am an active walker and hiker; all in all, I have no major issues. I do pushups and have done so for many years as a way to keep my upper body and core strong — usually four sets of 12, with about five minutes of rest in between. I have been mostly doing this every other day, or three times per week.
I have read about the “pushup challenge,” where you do them every day, trying to get to 2,000 in a month, or about 75 every day. At my age, is it advised to have a day of rest for muscles to “rebuild,” or is an everyday routine safe? Wouldn’t doing pushups every day wear down muscles? — D.B.
ANSWER: Most serious athletes who weight train do have a day off for specific muscle groups when building muscle, to allow the muscle to recover. Particularly for adults in their 60s or older, building stamina slowly is recommended in order to reduce the likelihood of injury. However, the body is resilient, and most people will adapt to higher levels of exercise.
If your muscles are not sore on the days you don’t normally do your pushups, it is fine to do more that day. You will likely be able to get yourself to 75 per day. However, I would still recommend you listen to your body. It is far more important for you to do the right exercise for you than it is to achieve an arbitrary goal that might not be appropriate for you. If you are getting really sore, are unable to finish the goals you set for yourself, or simply aren’t enjoying it, back off and put your rest days back in.