Did you ever think you would make it this far? Back when you were 18, 50 looked old.
Now that you’re here you probably do feel old sometimes. The rest of the time you are probably thinking that 50 really isn’t that old after all.
Women and men approach 50 differently. The kids leave the house, and the ladies have more time to focus on themselves. They come into their own power.
Many of the women I have talked to said they feel far more powerful, confident, and independent in their 50’s and 60’s than they ever have before. Maybe it’s because women are used to switching back and forth between so many roles.
While men start to panic about their loss of identity, women look forward to using their time the way they choose.
If you’ve been reading this guide right through you know about the changes that hit you at 40. Your muscles start breaking down and your metabolism slows.
If you do nothing, these changes keep coming and you add new ones to the list. You start losing bone density for example.
Women and men have this problem. It just seems to affect women more because they live longer than men.
Your eyesight starts changing. And you need a little more time in the morning to get the juices flowing.
In other words, you start the long process of decay that eventually ends in death. But that is only if you don’t do anything about it.
Fitness after 50
Let’s get one thing straight. You’re body thrives on exercise. If you’ve never exercised before your body is still yearning for that thing it never did.
When you stop moving you start rotting. That doesn’t sound too pleasant, I know. It isn’t too great for your body either. Unfortunately, it’s the truth.
If you want to feel good and look young, you need to exercise. If you want to beat back osteoporosis, you need to exercise.
If you want to prevent or reverse heart disease, you need to exercise. Are you sensing a pattern here?
The aches and pains that you’re feeling, the general tiredness, all of those things recedes into the background when you exercise. If you continue to exercise, they stay in the background where they can’t bother you much.
There are other benefits to exercise.
When you get older and inactive your circulation suffers. All members of your body that depend on circulation suffer.
When you exercise you improve your circulation. If you have been distressed by a lack of interest (or just a lack of performance) in sex, exercise can help.
This is also the time of the hot flash. Menopause has entered the scene and she will make herself known.
We all know people who have a hard time with menopause. Either they are hot and cold or they suffer from mood swings and illness.
Sometimes the extra-lucky have all three types of symptoms. Women who are in shape seem to have an easier time enduring menopause.
If you aren’t in shape, start exercising now and you will still have relief from some of the menopausal symptoms. Researchers aren’t sure yet why this is, but who cares?
It may be because women who are in shape have less body fat, or it may be something else entirely. As long as you will find some relief that should be enough incentive for you.
Fitness Reality Check
You aren’t going to experience all of these benefits from a couple of regular rounds of golf or from puttering in your garden. Those activities may be fun, but they aren’t exercise.
I have no idea who started the rumor that walking a golf course once in a while could make up for actual exercise. It’s an idea that a lot of people believe in, though.
If you want to feel good and look good you need to be exercising at something that makes you hot and sweaty—and stop snickering. You know what I mean.
Your heart rate has to be elevated, and you need to feel slightly out of breath at the very least.
You need to do this type of workout six days a week.
Stop screaming. When you were 20, you could get away with a couple of days at the gym and a strict diet that you followed most of the time. ?
You had the muscle mass to burn off the slack. You had youth on your side.
At 50 you no longer have the ‘youth boost.’ You get what you pay for.
If you don’t exercise, what you’re paying for is a flabby, tired body that doesn’t want to work the way it should. It’s just like that old saying— garbage in, garbage out. But if you do exercise, those 20 year olds will be eating your dust.
Don’t believe me? Look at the celebrities you see in the movies and on the news. These are people who live by their looks.
They eat right and exercise every day. As a result they look years younger than the rest of the population.
How to Exercise Safely and Effectively
Get a heart-rate monitor. This is the number one piece of equipment you need to invest in after a good pair of sneakers. Why? For two reasons:
1) Your minimum working heart rate range drops 10 beats per minute (BMP) from what it was when you were 40. You need to keep track of where you are in your range to keep yourself safe.
2) Most people think they’re working out harder than they really are. The heart rate monitor keeps you honest. Hey, there’s no reason to work out unless it’s doing something for you, right?
Everyone who is serious about fitness buys a heart monitor. Since you are going to make fitness an important part of your life you need to have the proper tools.
You can get a simple heart monitor for about $60. If you want something that will automatically calculate your optimal health range for your age, weight, and gender, and keep track of how many calories you’re burning, that will run you about $100.
Just don’t go crazy with all of the bells and whistles. You don’t need those to get the job done.
Pay Attention to Your Body
This is the key to exercising without pain. If you’ve never exercised before (or it has been a really long time) you are going to be sore the next day for the first week or so. Just expect it.
Your body will take a little time believing that you actually mean to give it what it needs. It will take a little time for it to adapt to what you’re doing. Follow the guidelines below, but keep an eye on how you feel throughout the program.
…If you’re active… Those of you who have kept in shape can still perform your favorite fitness activities. There is no reason for you to give up running if you still feel good while doing it.
The one thing you will notice is that you don’t recover nearly as fast as you used to. If you challenge yourself fitness-wise (and you should, occasionally) with a high intensity activity, remember to give yourself time to recover. You don’t have to take the next day off, just go light.
…If you’re sedentary… It’s a good idea for the active folk to stay active. For you, getting active is a necessity.
But you have to start slowly. You’ve lost a significant amount of muscle mass. Even worse, your joint, tendon, and ligament flexibility has gone into the doghouse.
Focus on high intensity exercises that don’t jolt your joints.
If you like the treadmill for instance, move the incline up and walk briskly uphill. This is better than keeping the incline flat and running. You will get a good workout without damaging your joints.
…For everybody… Assess how you feel after each workout. Your body is in a constant state of change.
An activity that is too hard for you to do when you’re first starting out will be do-able just a few months later. Don’t let yourself fall into a rut.
Once an activity feels good, change things up a bit. Add more intensity or try something completely new. This will keep your body from adapting to the exercise.
Adapting sounds good, but it isn’t, in this case. When you adapt to an exercise you will no longer progress in your fitness goals.
Changing your activity here and there forces the body to keep improving because it can’t predict what you will ask it to do next. You will be sending the signal that your body needs to improve as fast as possible to keep up with the changing circumstances.
On the other hand, if you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck, back off a little and progress more slowly.
If you can’t get out of bed for three days afterward, you pushed it too hard. This doesn’t do anything for your body. And the key is to feel better not worse, right?
Tone it down a little.
Everybody should be exercising six days a week. When you were in your 40’s you had the option to start with three days of exercise a week and gradually work your way up.
You don’t have that option at 50. You don’t have that kind of time. Block out an hour and a half of time.
You will exercise for 45 minutes and use the other 45 minutes to get to the gym and change.
Cardio Exercise after 50
Work on cardiovascular activities four days out of six.
It can be any activity you want; swimming, biking, aerobics, the rowing machine, as long as you work out for 45 minutes in your aerobic zone. Don’t forget to warm up, cool down, and stretch during that time.
Your warm up can be a slow 2-3 minute walk. The same goes for the cool down.
After your warm up, stretch the muscles you are about to work. This will cut down on your chance of injury.
This becomes even more important now than it was ten years ago. Weight train a minimum of two days out of six.
If you want to cut back on one cardio day to work out with weights, go ahead. Strength training will help prevent osteoporosis.
If you already have osteoporosis or have lost bone density, strength training can help your body reverse the effects.
If you’ve never weight trained you will want to either hire a personal trainer to help you learn the proper forms or talk a knowledgeable friend or relative into doing it for free.
If you are very weak, I advise you to spend the money on a professional who has worked with mature adults just entering weight training. She will know how to help you in a safe, effective manner.
Once you know what you’re doing, try out the body weight moves listed in the Fitness after 40 post.
Balance and Core Moves
You will work on balance and core exercises 2-3 three times a week, on the same days you do your weight training. This is going to protect you from all of those nasty falls that break bones and put you out of commission.
Start with the balance exercises below.
Add in a set of crunches and cobras.
Lie on your back. Put your hands behind your head and look up at the ceiling. Continue looking up at the ceiling as you pull your shoulder blades up off the floor.
Carefully lower yourself back down. Do as many as you can comfortably fit into 15 seconds.
Do not compromise your form. This is one set. Beginners: Start with 1 set. Advanced: Start with 2 sets and work up to three.
If you can’t do this yet, then use your hands to help you a little bit. Try to do five, but stop before your head pops off.
Remember to breathe. Gradually work your way up to 10. This is one set.
Beginners: Start with 1 set. Advanced: Do two sets to start and work your way up to three.
When in doubt, start slower and easier than you think you need to. It’s far better to be bored the first week than hurt yourself and never come back.
Gradually make the workouts harder. The key is to be consistent.
Nutrition after 50
As you get older the amount of calories you need to survive starts to decline. This is because you are losing muscle and gaining more fat as the years roll by. You can change that by exercising and building muscle.
Of course you can’t exercise very well if you put terrible food into that amazing body of yours.
At 50 you need to really focus on the quality of the food you eat. This is how:
1) Eat a low-salt, low-fat diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and fiber.
2) Eat smaller meals more often to prop up your sagging metabolism.
3) Stay away from simple or refined carbohydrates. We’re talking about anything made from white flour—muffins, cookies, white bread, and white sugar. Move those daily treats to one treat per week.
4) Get the majority of your fats from the ‘healthy’ fat list: olive oil, avocados, nuts, nut oils, and organic corn and soybean oil.
5) Eat lean protein. Try to get 50% of your protein requirements from vegetarian sources like beans and legumes.
6) Get more calcium. If you only pick two guidelines to follow, they should be this one and number 7. You need strong bones if you want to live. Hip replacement surgery is invasive, painful, and (sometimes) can shorten your lifespan by 2-4 years.
7) Focus on fiber. Fiber comes from the plant kingdom. Eat your beans—those fiber powerhouses—and plenty of fruits and vegetables. This will keep you regular and clear out dangerous, cancer causing agents from your body.
Younger Next Year for Women —A Guide to Living Like 50 Until You’re 80 and Beyond by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, M.D.
Strong Women Stay Young by Miriam E. Nelson, and Sarah Wernick
Dare To Be 100: 99 Steps To A Long, Healthy Life by Walter M. Bortzii