Fitness after Fifty

Senior Couple on the BeachSo now you just turned fifty, sixty, seventy or more!!  You may notice that you can’t easily do what you used to anymore or possibly it takes you a little longer to do it.  As we age, we experience a 10% decline in muscle strength and a 3-5% reduction in our resting metabolic rate with each decade!  To retard this decline, staying active and exercising is key.  Good health doesn’t just happen for most people. You need to take charge of what you eat, how you exercise and how to unwind and relax.  Jack LaLanne, an exercise and nutrition celebrity, once stated, “You need to work at living. Dying is easy!”

A well-designed exercise program should address strength training, cardiovascular endurance and flexibility.  In addition, eating a nutritionally-balanced diet, getting enough sleep and ensuring a healthy mind though stress management techniques are also extremely important to an overall healthy body and mind.  This all may seem a little overwhelming, especially considering the busy schedule that most of us maintain each day! But this is especially important to make time for this as we get older.  Here are some tips to remember:

1. MAKE EXERCISE FUN: Exercising to some people is foreign and to others it may be second nature. Choose a form of exercise that you like and you’ll be more likely to stick to it. For instance, walking is good for cardiovascular health and leg strength and requires only a good pair of sneakers and possibly a friend! Consider choosing a method that is easier on your joints, such walking, jogging, biking, swimming or elliptical machines.

2. NO WEIGHTS REQUIRED: Strength training doesn’t have to mean lifting a heavy bar full of weights. Resistance training can be accomplished in many forms, including machines, exercise bands or just our plain ‘ole body weight!  Aim to complete some type of resistance training at least twice per week, just be sure to keep good form, or you’ll find yourself susceptible to an injury!

3. BE FLEXIBLE: Flexibility also declines as we age, so be sure to include proper stretching at the end of your workouts. We tend to sit more than we used to which causes the muscles to be tighter and stiffer. You may notice this when it becomes more difficult to put on and take off your socks and shoes! Stretching properly following weight training or cardiovascular exercises allows the muscles to be warmed up so that they will be better able to stretch.

4. NUTRITIONALLY SOUND: Good nutrition is an essential part of any healthy lifestyle plan. Consider an anti-inflammatory diet with more fruits, vegetables, less dairy and simple carbohydrates, and less red meat and added sugars. Stay hydrated, as dehydration is a major factor in muscle cramping, low blood pressure and fatigue.

5. REST AND RECHARGE: This should be the easy part!  We have noticed that our bodies don’t recover quite as quickly anymore. Rest plays a major role in your body’s ability to recover from daily activities, so take time out to ensure you aren’t overdoing it.   Sleep should be at least 6 to 8 hours each night. Rest throughout the day when you’re tired. In addition, meditation or breathing exercises help many people to reduce stress.

Educating yourself about healthy living is a major factor when creating a commitment to a healthier lifestyle.  Consider scheduling an appointment with a physical therapist who can identify strengths and weaknesses and answer any questions you may have about how the muscles and joints in your body work.  This is especially helpful if you have an underlying orthopedic, joint, or muscle problem and would therefore need a modified exercise program. As an expert in the musculoskeletal system, a physical therapist will help you create a plan that will get you on track toward better health, while minimizing any injury risk…and often in only one visit!

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