Everyone wants to be strong as they age. After all, when we feel physically strong, it positively impacts our mental health. Whether you’ve led an active life or are just starting on your fitness journey, there’s no reason why you can’t set and meet fitness goals as you age.
Staying fit after 50 may not be quite as easy as when you were 20, but it is still achievable. Make fitness a top priority, and you’ll feel better for years to come. You may even be prolonging your life. According to a study published in the American Journal of Medicine, the higher your muscle mass index, the more likely you are to live longer.
Tips for Starting Out
Start small. Know that you don’t have to jump right into a rigorous workout routine or training for a marathon. If you haven’t been exercising much or if you have mobility issues, making a simple change can have big results. For example, you might simply start by making an effort to get out more. Add a walk up your street and back to your daily routine. Start tutoring or volunteering at a local school–the kids will keep you on your toes (so to speak!) but you’ll have plenty of time to sit and rest, too. Park a little farther away when you’re doing shopping or going to medical appointment. These are small differences but they can help you have a strong start to your renewed focus on getting fit.
Focus on flexibility and balance. Many injuries in older adults occur due to loss of flexibility and balance. Increasing core strength and flexibility should be your first goal. Increased flexibility aids in blood circulation, range of motion, toning muscles, and prevention of injuries. Building your core will strengthen abdominals and lower back muscles, which will help you prevent and recover from back injuries.
Muscles and tendons lose elasticity over time, which make shoulders, hips, legs, and back feel stiffer. Regular stretching or yoga after working out will help you become more flexible. A simple 5-10 minute stretching routine will keep stiffness at bay.
Working on balance will enable you to regain your footing easier and make you less likely to fall. You can improve balance by standing on one foot for 30 seconds at a time, or trying some basic yoga balance moves such as the tree pose, eagle pose, or king dancer pose.
Avoid overworking the same muscles too much. This will make you more prone to injury. Cross training is great for hitting different muscle groups and building endurance.
Start with bodyweight exercises and slowly progress to adding more weight for strength training. Non-impact cardio such as swimming, elliptical machines, and biking can be a good first step toward running and more high impact fitness routines. Another tip is to use a very sturdy, straight back chair that is easy to grip to add balance while doing standing exercises. It can also offer a seated position to work from.
Make it fun. Try new activities in order to find the ones that make you happiest and healthiest. And keep in mind that you don’t have to go it alone. If you don’t enjoying exercising by yourself, choose group activities. Play tennis with a friend or take a water aerobics class.
You might find, too, that your best workout buddy has four legs rather than two. People with pets get more exercise than those who don’t. So, you might consider getting a pooch to help you stay active and happy. If you don’t want to take on the responsibility of caring for a pet full time, there are many people who seek dog walking services. As a dog walker, you’ll get plenty of exercise and will get the mental health benefits that come with being around dogs. Bottom line, find a couple of activities that you enjoy and stick with them.
Stay hydrated. Don’t forget to drink lots of water to keep your muscles hydrated and boost recovery by getting enough rest.
Running can be a safe and healthy cardio endeavor at any age. With realistic goals and expectations for your body, you can be a new runner or continue running as you have in the past.
Always check with your doctor if you are starting a new running routine or have taken a long period of time off. Practice a good warm-up routine before every run. A 5 – 10 minute walk or jog and dynamic stretching (arm circles, lunges, heel and knee raises) will get your body ready for your run. Save the static stretching (held in one position for longer period of time) for after your workout.
We naturally lose muscle as we age, but regular strength training can help build it back up. Improved muscle strength can help absorb impact while running and ease stress on joints. Standard leg and core exercises such as squats, planks, lunges, and push-ups will make a big difference for injury resistance and running performance.
Diabetes Care for Active Adults
Preventing or managing diabetes while maintaining an active lifestyle can be challenging, but physical activity helps with weight loss, raising HDL cholesterol (the good one), lowering blood glucose levels, and can prevent type 2 diabetes in people with pre-diabetes.
Insulin and other medications can increase your risk for hypoglycemia when you up your activity level. Increase workouts gradually to get used to longer periods of exercise, and check blood glucose levels more frequently. Carry fast-acting carbs and wear an ID bracelet just in case of an emergency.
Being active after 50 may entail some special considerations, but if you listen to your body and make goals for yourself, you can maintain and enjoy a healthy lifestyle.
Photo by Unsplash
Author: Jason Lewis
Jason is passionate about helping seniors stay healthy and injury-free. He created StrongWell to share his tips on senior fitness.