If one were to describe just what being “fit” over the age of 50 should look like where would one begin?
Sure there are the medical and scientific metrics that measure how well your body utilizes oxygen, how fast your heart rate rises during different levels of intensity and more importantly how quickly it returns to a normal at rest pace when you finish.
There are ways to measure your weight and percentage of body fat versus lean muscle mass, although using this as a gauge of real fitness has come into question recently as it is now thought that you can actually be overweight AND fit.
But what do all these numbers and measurements really mean? Well I propose that real fitness after the age of fifty (excluding any medical or health issues) is simply being able to have the energy, mobility, flexibility and strength to remain active, independent and useful well into our senior years.
Being fit also has great preventative powers of fighting off some of the biggest worries of those of us older than 50. A regular fitness regiment has been proven to help fight some cancers and memory loss, the two leading worries among most baby boomers. Resistance or strength training reduces and delays the loss of muscle mass (known as sarcopenia) that naturally occurs in humans beginning after our twenties and accelerating after forty. In fact a regular weight lifting routine has been shown to actually REVERSE muscle loss and contrary to popular belief you CAN add muscle after 50!
One of the first questions that I’m asked when approached about over 50 fitness is “What’s the best exercises for getting back in shape”?
My answer is always the same. “The one that you think you can stick to and be consistent with.” Studies show that more people have success sticking to a “at home” fitness routine. Maybe that’s best for you. There are plenty of at home exercise devices and videos that you can use to get a really good workout. Although I am a regular at my local gym I still find it much easier some days to just grab my resistance bands and workout ball and get a good workout in the comfort of my home in 30 or 40 minutes.
On the other hand if you feel like the gym is the place for you there are new ones opening up every day, the explosion being driven by us aging baby boomers! Many of these offer classes and routines aimed specifically at older adults. I’ve even written an article to help you choose the right gym.
The second most asked question is “How long does it take to see results”? Okay to be honest it usually takes 10 – 12 weeks of regular (3 – 5 times a week) exercise to increase your endurance or strength, but I guarantee that you will “feel” better after the very first session! There’s just something about taking care of ourselves and doing something positive that gives us a “lift” that stays with us for a while, not to mention the known effect of lowering our stress level and just one 30 minute session a week has a positive effect on our over all cardiovascular health.
So get with it, it’s okay to start slowly but work up to at least 30 minutes a day 4 or 5 days a week and you’ll be on the road to being fit over 50!