Getting fit and staying fit can be challenging at any age. However, as we enter our later years, it can be even more of a struggle to maintain our weight and body composition. We have less lean muscle mass, our joints ache and we are more prone to injuries. All of these factors can affect how we stay fit, increase our longevity and lead a healthy lifestyle. A natural consequence of aging is that the body slows down. Most frustratingly, your metabolism. This makes it increasingly more difficult to lose weight despite an unchanged diet or exercise routine. You wonder why you’re not seeing the results you expect when you’re putting in the same amount of effort that you always have? Blame your slowing metabolism. Now, before you throw your hands up and say “why bother?”, let me share some information.
You have the power to change this. It may look different than it did when you were 25 but that doesn’t mean you must resign yourself to your mother’s aqua aerobics class. First, our fitness goals at 50 may not be the same as they were 20+ years ago. But the bottom line is that we all want to feel our best. We may not be interested in gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated or entering a bodybuilding competition (not that those things are unattainable) but we want to be able to live a long and healthy life. Maybe we want to lose a few pounds too. No matter what your fitness goals are as you enter into middle age (yes, you can live to 100+), taking the proper steps to get there are crucial to your success. A Norwegian study found that late bloomers – ie, those in their 50s – have better health prospects than anyone who was once fit but has now stopped exercising. Not to mention, it cuts your risk for having a stroke in half! How’s that for motivation?
But you need to think about YOUR “why”. Why do you want to stay fit? Identifying your reason is the number one place to start. This will frame your goals and allow you to put a plan into action. It’s important to write these down as a reminder when you’re losing sight of the reason your started in the first place or are feeling a little unmotivated. Once you’ve answered your “why”, the next step is making the commitment to yourself. It is determination and the willingness to put in the effort that will allow you to succeed. Then you can move on to the “how”.
The key components to keep in mind when designing your fitness routine are resistance training, cardiovascular training – in the form of intervals (not steady-state) flexibility and balance.
As we age, we lose lean muscle mass which is crucial to boosting metabolism and decreasing body fat. It’s a great tool for combatting osteoporosis and improving your balance too. So grab those weights!
For preventing heart disease as well as maintaining weight, include shorter bouts of cardio between strength exercise to maximize the benefits.
Once the body is sufficiently warmed up, get into the habit of stretching every day. This will improve joint mobility, posture (which tends to suffer as we age due to bone loss) and will also help to prevent injuries.
Preventing falls as we age becomes important. Training on unstable surfaces (like a balance board) or incorporating uni-lateral movements will help.
To help you along on your fitness journey, some things to remember:
It is very possible to be in better shape at 50 then you were at 25 (as long as you weren’t an Olympic-level athlete back then) by following these steps consistently and sustaining discipline. Be mindful of each step as they all work together to keep you on track with whatever your personal fitness goals may be.
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