Fitness Over 50

Show the kids how it's done! Become a fitness role model for friends and family of all ages.

It's never too late to develop an active lifestyle with plenty of vigorous exercise. In fact, getting fit may help you feel younger! As we age, our bodies change: our ability to develop strength and power decreases, we gain fat, and we lose muscle and flexibility. However, most of the changes we associate with aging have to do with simply becoming less active.

"There is probably no part of the population that can benefit more from exercising," says one of the UK's top fitness experts, Graeme Marsh. He notes that for beginners, it can take time to build up to this, especially if you suffer from cardiovascular problems or a condition such as arthritis.

Combining aerobic exercise and strength training will increase flexibility, mobility, strength and endurance. Marsh quotes one study on men over 90 years of age which saw an average increase of 174 percent in strength, and 48 percent in walking speed after just eight weeks of training.

How to get moving
The first step is to check with your doctor, says Marsh. This is particularly important if you currently suffer from illness, are overweight, are a smoker, or have a history of heart disease in the family.

Begin with activities that focus on mobility and flexibility, before focusing on strength. This will help maintain good movement and prevent injury. Good exercises to begin with include yoga, swimming, Pilates, and golf. Even increasing the amount of walking you do each day will have a significant effect — get a pedometer and aim to build up to those magic 10,000 steps a day.

Choose something you enjoy, advises Marsh. If golf bores you to tears, skip it in favor of swimming or Pilates. Or for a social take on fitness, take up dancing — anything from ballroom or belly-dancing (which is great for toning stomach muscles).

Set yourself a goal with a deadline — it could be getting fit enough to go on a charity walk or to be able to book a vacation and walk through California vineyards. And once you meet that goal, bring strength training into the mix. Women especially need to include some weight-bearing exercise in their routine to offset the loss of bone density that happens after the menopause.

Physical fitness can be contagious, so once you find a workout or activity you love, invite friends to join you. You can even make it a family affair: suggest group activities that will get the whole gang up and moving. And while you're at it, feel free to strut your newly-fit stuff.

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