Get fit after fifty: it’s easier than you think
You can easily get fit after fifty. You will just need to be clever about it. Our bodies stop behaving the way we want them to as we age. Even simply moving from your twenties to your thirties can see a big change. You have less energy, your body takes longer to recover, your joints ache more, and you suddenly seem to be made from glass where once you felt indestructible.
It’s common – it happens to the best of us. For those who have lived an active lifestyle, it can come on as a gradual erosion. For those looking to get into fitness either for the first time, or at least after a long break, it can be a truly rude awakening.
However, you shouldn’t hang up your gym shoes just yet. You can still get as fit as you want after turning fifty. You just need to follow a few basic rules.
How to stay fit after fifty
Follow these six rules for the best chance of getting fit after fifty.
1. Stretch… a lot
It’s not just enough to simply stretch after every workout. You might have gotten away with this when you were younger. However, there is little as important as staying flexible and mobile as you age – and, unfortunately, it takes a bit more work than it used to.
Flexibility goes as we age. This is because our collagenous tendons lose mass and functionality. These form a part of our lean body mass. Lean body mass deteriorates as we age if we don’t use it, so we have to look after it. You will need to stretch.
Aim for a total body stretch at least three times per week. This will be vital in staying fit after fifty. This can be after a workout when you are warm or can be a separate mobility and stretching routine. I personally recommend taking up yoga a couple of times per week.
Try to stretch every muscle daily, too, at least once.
2. Pay attention to resistance training
As above, our lean mass deteriorates as we age if we don’t use it. Therefore, we really have to use it. Put cardio to the background as you age. Focus more on resistance training – things like weight lifting, swimming, yoga, Pilates, calisthenics, or anything else during which you move your muscles through a full range of motion, against adequate resistance.
This isn’t to say you don’t need cardio. It just should be more of a secondary priority.
If you are trying to get fit after fifty for the first time, I would personally recommend employing the help of a personal trainer or attending classes. The last thing you need is to injure yourself. Injury will take longer to heal after fifty, so its best avoided wherever possible.
3. Shape your cardio accordingly
So, how should this cardio look, if it’s taking second place? I would bind it up with resistance training.
Interval training, specifically high intensity interval training (HIIT), is perfect as we look to get fit after fifty (and it takes far less time than steady state cardio!) HIIT has a few advantages.
Firstly, it burns a lot of calories very quickly, allowing you to stay lean, as it elicits an after burn effect. It also works you to an intensity at which you will be building or at least maintaining muscle mass and bone density. Circuit training works in a similar way – if you’re lifting weights, try setting up four or five compound movements and going through them one after the other, without a break.
Just remember that if you are hitting the gym for the very first time to seek assistance from an instructor. Warming up and warming down are crucial to reducing discomfort after an intense work out. It is easy to become demotivated when the after effects of learning a new exercise hit. Be assured, it will get much, much easier with time.
4. To stay fit after fifty, always warm up
You need to warm up before any exercise. We all do, no matter our age, but it becomes even more vital in fitness routines after fifty.
A good warm up before training will help to increase circulation, raise your heart rate and body temperature, prime your muscles for exercise and the movements they will need to perform, and will improve your joint range of motion by increasing blood and synovial fluid flow.
This will be particularly vital after fifty as tendon elasticity decreases.
Try mobility work coupled with light cardio. I like to walk to the gym and then perform lots of bodyweight compound movements, for instance, raising my body temperature slowly and preparing my muscles for the kinds of movements they will be going through.
Then, as above, stretch a lot after training.
5. Rest plenty
You may think all of this won’t give you much time to rest. However, you can perform some form of exercise every day whilst still resting. You just can’t go too heavy day after day. You may not even be able to lift weights every other day.
This is fine. It’s good, in fact. You need to learn to balance exercise and rest as you get fit after fifty.
Our bodies don’t recover as quickly as they used to as we age. Therefore, try taking two days off between heavy lifting sessions. Use these days wisely. Perform stretches and mobility work – this will be the perfect time to go to a low intensity yoga class. Get your cardio in, going for cycle sprints or hard swimming.
Just don’t go for the same thing day after day. Give your body a break. Be kind to yourself and consult your healthcare provider before starting.
Above all else, find what you enjoy. You are far more likely to stick with it if you actually enjoy it. If you are starting out for the very first time, exercise can be intimidating. This is where the support and motivation of a gym buddy can really help. Start off slowly, but regularly. No one gets fit overnight, so easy does it.
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Author - James