How to Achieve Fitness After 50

By Phil Faris

As we get   older, the number and strength of our muscle fibers decrease.   Starting as young as thirty, we lose an   average of two to four pounds of muscle every decade.   In addition, most people start gaining two   pounds a year starting at forty.   At age 50, we can be 12-14 pounds fatter   than when we were 40.   Thus, extra weight and muscle atrophy due   to inactivity leads to decreased flexibility, strength and range of   motion.   Besides a thickening mid section, many   people begin experiencing discomfort in doing every day activities   like bending, reaching or moving objects.

The key   to reclaiming the vitality your body once provided is increasing   muscle with exercise.   Exercise not only strengthens muscles, but   also stimulates the repair mechanism within the muscle so that new   muscle is formed. Research has shown that it’s never too late to   receive the benefits of exercise by staying physically active after   age fifty.   You can maximize muscle tone and minimize   fat.

Adapting   regular exercise into your lifestyle provides many benefits including

  • Strengthening your heart
  • Boosting your metabolism
  • Improving circulation
  • Reducing fat
  • Increasing flexibility
  • Strengthening bones
  • Increased energy
  • Increased muscle mass
  • Improving your mood

To get the most   from your exercise, you need to invest time in each of the three types   of exercise cardio, resistance and flexibility.

Cardio Exercises

Cardio or   aerobic training is systemic exercise.   It engages a large number of muscle cells   at an intensity that challenges both the cardiovascular and   respiratory systems and can be continued for at least 20-30 minutes.   Examples include:

  • Brisk walking
  • Jogging
  • Rowing
  • Biking
  • Cross country skiing

Research   suggests that the amount of cardio exercise required for optimal   health (this does not mean fitness) is three 30 minute sessions per   week where you increase your heart rate to 80% of your age adjusted   maximum (220 minus year age).   The benefits of cardio exercise are many   including:

  • Lowering LDL cholesterol
  • Raising your healthy HDL cholesterol
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Decreasing inflammation
  • Weight management
  • Stress management
  • Reducing risk of lifestyle related diseases

The key   components of cardio training are:

  • Intensity – enough to challenge your respiratory system.
  • Duration 20-45 minutes
  • Frequency 3-4 times a week.


Resistance Training

Resistance   training is exercise that works by isolating specific muscle groups   with enough intensity or resistance to reach momentary muscle failure,   which is simply the inability to complete the next repetition.

Adding   lean muscle through resistance training will help you consume more   calories and make it easier to maintain your weight.   Resistance training helps you achieve   optimal health by:

  • Increasing lean muscle
  • Increasing bone density
  • Burning more calories
  • Maintaining your weight
  • Strengthening muscles
  • Increased flexibility
  • Increased muscle tone and shape
  • Reduced aches and pain
  • Improved posture
  • Improved self esteem

For many,   resistance training means lifting weights. Although   weight training is a good method of resistance training, it’s not the   only method.   The key is to do weight – bearing   exercise, ones that requires your body to push or pull against   resistance.   Thirty minutes a week is all that is   needed to maintain bone density.   Building lean muscle can be achieved with   as little as three twenty-minute sessions per week.

The keys to   resistance training are:

  1. Intensity – to momentary failure
  2. Repetition – 8-20 reps
  3. Sets – 1-3 sets per body part
  4. Frequency – 2-3 times per week   (all major groups)
  5. Recovery – allow a 48-hour   recovery before working a body part again.
  6. Balance – for symmetry and   reduced injures, train all major muscle groups equally.


Flexibility Training

Flexibility training is often the most overlooked and underrated form   of exercise.   The goal of flexibility training is to   increase your range of motions for your major muscle groups. This   provides the following benefits:

  • Increased mobility
  • Improved balance
  • Decreased aches and stiffness
  • Improved sports performance
  • Reduction in injuries
  • Increased energy

There are   many ways to increase your flexibility including Yoga, Pilates and   basic stretching.   You can achieve significant benefits with   just five minutes a day.   Be sure to use proper form, hold your   stretches for 25-30 seconds.   Don’t bounce and breathe while you let   your muscles stretch.   Be sure to work your core muscles (i.e.,   abs and lower back) as well as your limbs.


Getting Started

When   starting an exercise program, it is extremely important to have   realistic expectations.   Depending upon your initial fitness level,   you can expect the following positive changes.

  • From 1-10 weeks:   feel better and have more energy
  • From 2-6 months:   lose size and inches while becoming leaner.   Clothes begin to fit more loosely.   An increase in muscle and a decrease in fat
  • From 6 months:   weight loss becomes more rapid.

You can   achieve optimal health and fitness after fifty. You need to commit   yourself to a program that’s right for you and one that embraces the   guidelines outlined in this article.    Before starting an exercise program, it’s   best to consult with your health care provider.

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One Response to How to Achieve Fitness After 50

  1. AYoung says:

    Good reminder to look at all the aspects of fitness and not just cardio…will be working on flexibility which I have ignored for a while now! Thanks!

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