Let us face it. In your 50’s your body is not the same as it was in your 20’s and 30’s, as aging changes many things internally. However, exercising after your 50’s can add healthy years to your life, and it is important that you exercise caution and the right thing in the right way. And with the ongoing pandemic and lessons that COVID-19 is teaching us, there is no doubt that you need to be fit of all ages to battle new-age health challenges. While a significant proportion of Americans are active, less than 25% of adults meet national physical activity guidelines and 40% have obesity as per the ACSM American Fitness Index 2020 report. And as you age fitness is harder while more necessary.
Know Your Body
As the body begins to age, it is not as receptive to unexpected changes and this becomes just another reason to work out and uphold a certain level of fitness.
“As you age, adapting an active and healthy lifestyle is of prime importance to help regulate and monitor your health base. Moreover, indulging in exercise and body workouts on a regular basis can guard you against unwanted heart ailments, diabetes and can also avert you from certain forms of cancer. Working out regularly can also lessen discomfort related to arthritis. By refining one’s stability and balance, suppleness, stamina, fortitude, and strength, older adults can live restored and healthier longer,” says Shalini Bhargava, Fitness Expert & Director at JG’S Fitness Centre.
Endurance exercises, such as low-impact aerobics, walking, using cardiovascular equipment such as elliptical trainers, cycle, and swimming based on the level of physical conditioning and current status of health at least five days each week is recommended.
The 50s are when chances of developing osteoporosis goes up and therefore it is imperative to add toning exercises; cardio alone is not enough. Pilates, yoga, and weight-training are some of the options to maintain muscle mass and tone up. These exercises should best be done under professional supervision to avoid injury. Swimming is yet another great workout for this age-group as the risk of injury is much less.
“I would suggest you do either 15 minutes of toning regularly or 45 minutes, thrice a week in combination with a cardio activity of course. During a cardio workout, you are bearing your own body weight, the bones work against gravity and hence reduce mineral loss. I am 52, so I ensure I weight train for two days, dance for two days, and walk for at least four hours a week,” says Suman Agarwal, Celebrity Nutritionist, Author, and Founder of Selfcare India.
Since their movement becomes decreased at that age, they need to focus more on their flexibility and mobility.
“One should avoid strenuous training and sprinting on the treadmill. Not many chest movements should be done and overhead pressing movements should be avoided. Whenever one feels uncomfortable, they should stop immediately and not continue,” says Prosenjit Biswas, Fitness Manager, Skulpt gym, Kolkata.
Do it Right
Start slowly, especially when embarking on a new exercise routine, and ensure you have professional supervision.
Anjali Sareen, The Zone Mind & Body Studio avers, “Choosing a fitness program based on one’s own goals and needs is a must. Selecting fitness routines based on current popular trends or because your friends are doing them or out of convenience of location or price should not be deciding factors. A better option is to focus on personal training sessions with an experienced professional. These sessions can be customized to suit your fitness level, goals, and take into consideration any health concerns or injuries. An experienced professional will be able to include a diverse range of exercises and programming to cover all aspects of a complete fitness program from physical goals to energy and mind gains.”
“Active warm-up reduces resistance to stretch and increases elastic properties or ability to stretch where activity includes stationary cycling, fast walk, or rowing machine. “Proper breathing techniques are often helpful in relaxing and may help reduce stress levels and voluntary muscle tension to avoid internal organ injuries. Maintaining a neutral position of your spine, hips, shoulders, and neck can be greatly improved by using the hand not grasping the ankle to grab the back of a chair to maintain a balance. Gradually decrease in exercise intensity at the end of any cardiovascular exercise to allow heart rate and blood pressure to decrease,” explains Sujeet Kumar, Director & Coach, Fatcherry International Pvt Ltd.
Once over 50, it is best to avoid strenuous exercise like long-distance running, high-impact aerobics and weight-training exercises like deadlifts as these can put you at a higher risk of injury. As you age, your muscles shrink, hence opt for low-intensity cardio and toning activities. Avoid running on a treadmill or brisk-walking on an incline as both forms put pressure on the knees. Instead, jog on the ground.
Himay Chikani and Amrin Memon, Co-founders, AH Fitness opine, “Untrained seniors who begin exercising should start at a relatively low exercise intensity and volume. The early phase of the training program should be directed towards learning proper exercise techniques and minimizing the risk of injuries. Advanced and demanding exercises should be incorporated gradually into the program.”
Diksha Chhabra, Fitness Expert, Nutritionist & Founder, Diksha Chhabra Fitness Consultation adds, “High-intensity training, plyometric training, skipping, running or certain movements of weight training like Deadlift, Pull-ups, Leg extensions, and Heavyweight training needs more attention and care while performing as this is the age when your joints start showing signs of detrition and workouts with multiple joints involved or a moment of pressure can put unnecessary jerk on the joints can lead to a long term injury. Hence one must practice controlled momentum and intensity with or without weights for long-term activity.”
Always warm-up before starting your workout and cool down when you finish. When you injure yourself at a young age, recovery is much faster. At 50, injuries take longer to heal. Stretches are a must as shoulder, lower back, and knee pain are most common for those in the age bracket.
Sheetal Tewari, Holistic Health Coach, Yoga and meditation teacher, Sound Healer advises, “Do not overdo. The thumb rule is not overdoing anything just because you like it and it’s exciting to try new workouts. Don’t succumb to peer pressure. Choose what works for your body type not what everyone else is doing.” Do pay attention to your body’s signals and try new exercises but with complete precautions.
Dr. Ashish Jain, Orthopedic surgeon, P.D Hinduja Hospital & MRC, Mahim, Mumbai explains, “The aim now is to get into ‘anti-aging’ mode. Weight training must continue with maximum possible intensity to help maintain muscle mass and bone density. I suggest focusing more on leg workouts as they comprise the larger body segment and need to be strong for the coming years ahead. Squats, leg press, knee extensions, hamstring curls, and calf raises help in overall leg development. Some form of daily cardio is essential too and I suggest ‘low impact’ options like walks, swimming, cycling, and cross trainers.”
Consistency is the key. So, stay fabulous at 50 by staying fit.
Bindu Gopal Rao is a freelance writer and photographer from Bangalore who likes taking the offbeat path when traveling. Birding and environment are her favorites and she documents her work on www.bindugopalrao.com.