Fitness in your 50s and beyond

Exercise provides health benefits for everyone at every age and stage

It’s never too late to get fit. NEVER!

Exercise provides health benefits for everyone at every age and stage, so don’t ever think you’re too old to exercise.

Once you hit your 50s, you most likely notice you’ve starting to slow down. And despite how you feel, you’re not as fit as you once were.

The pounds pile on faster, your joints feel a little stiffer, and you’re moving a little slower.

But it’s not too late to fight the effects of aging, regain your strength and maintain good health. Exercise, no matter your age, is proven to reduce your risk of chronic conditions including heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, certain cancers, high blood pressure, arthritis and high cholesterol.

Maybe you already exercise on a regular basis or perhaps you’re looking to add more physical activity to your daily routine. For people in their 50s and beyond, here are a few tips to exercise safely and effectively.

Make it regular. To get in shape and stay fit, exercise must be a staple in your routine.

Once a week isn’t going to do you much good. Don’t believe it? Ask your trainer. Make exercise a part of every day, just like eating and brushing your teeth. It should be just what you do. Find a time of day that works best for you. Some people prefer mornings when they first wake up, others find time during their lunch break, and others prefer after dinner in the evenings. It doesn’t have to take hours of your day. If you only have time for 30 minutes, go for it!

Make it enjoyable. You’ll be much likelier to stick with exercise if it’s something you enjoy. This might take a little experimentation with different types of workouts, but don’t stop until you find a few exercises you like to do and that make you feel good.

There are dozens of workouts to choose from. Maybe it’s something outdoors, a workout you can do with a friend, or exercise that helps you relax.

You may not be able to do the workouts you did 20 years ago, but that’s okay. Come to terms with the fact that every age and stage of life is different, find your new limit and reach it every time you hit the gym.

Make it balanced.

A balanced workout routine will include sessions of cardio, strength training and flexibility exercises each week.

Cardio is good for a lot of things, but mainly your heart. Strength training is especially beneficial for your muscles and bones. Stretching is good for your muscles and joints. You don’t want to skip out on any of these benefits. Work with your trainer to develop a balanced weekly routine.

While all exercise types are important, strength training should be your priority.

Do exercises that work against some form of resistance two to three days a week, taking at least one day off in between workouts.

Incorporate cardio exercise into your routine two to three days a week as well.

Low-impact cardio exercises are often the activity of choice for aging adults because they’re gentler on the joints. Less pressure and stress on your joints mean fewer aches and pains.

Be sure to start each workout with a warm-up period. Plan to do flexibility exercises two to three times a week after exercise, when your muscles are warm. Stretch all major muscles groups to prevent potential injuries.

Make it safe. Your health needs are different today than they were 10, 20 or 30 years ago. If it’s been years since you’ve exercised, talk with your doctor before starting a new workout.

Remember, a new workout routine requires starting slowly and gradually increasing the intensity in order to prevent injury, excess soreness and burnout.

Never exercise to the point of pain. Listen to your body. Stop if you experience pain and work with your trainer to keep moving forward in ways that will help you prevent making the pain worsen.

Why weights? Strength training is able to slow or reverse the loss of bone density, muscle mass and strength, three things that were once thought to be inevitable aspects of aging. So don’t fear strength training. Go for it!

Jack Wheeler is a personal trainer and the owner of 360 Fitness in Red Deer.

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