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Starting to exercise in your 50’s seem a daunting task if you’ve not exercised regularly before. Where do you even start?
I imagine the idea that to exercise we need to drag our lumps and bumps down to the local sweat-soaked gym and get amoungst the testosterone and muscle is unappealing to most women over 50. I know it is to me.
Most of us understand the benefits of daily exercise but it becomes particularly important as we go into menopause and beyond. I heard it once said that exercise will add years to your life and life to your years. Who wouldn’t want both of those benefits?
As a natural part of ageing, muscles weaken, joints get stiff and bones can become brittle. Regular exercise can build muscle and bone mass, boost cardiovascular health, increase your energy levels and make you feel stronger.
Mix up your exercise
To encourage all muscle groups and organs to work at different rates and levels it is important to mix it up and exercise in a variety of ways. Examples would be swimming, walking, biking, HIIT, dancing, yoga and strength training. The goal is to establish a regular and comfortable routine.
As with everything variety is the spice of life.
Include aerobic exercise with short periods of rest and strength training to both burn calories and build lean muscle mass and you’ll improve your body composition and lose belly fat. It’s a win win and covers all the bases.
Experiment and find an exercise you enjoy
If you enjoy doing it you’re more likely to make it a habit.
Find a time that fits easily into your schedule and do it at the same time each day. I get up early. I find it sets me up for the day and it’s out of the way with less chance of me avoiding it.
Tip: give yourself a day off. I love this day because I can lounge at home with a cup of tea. And I’m more inclined to get on with it for the rest of the week. Even on that day though, I still walk and make sure to get in my steps for the day.
Stretching greatly improves…
balance and coordination and helps to keep joints and muscles flexible and should definately be part of your exercise routine.
It doesn’t build endurance or contribute significantly to cardiovascular health but will help to open up the lungs letting you breathe deeper. This contributes towards natural detoxification of the body.
Body weight resistance exercises will also help to improve flexibility.
Strength training exercises are important for women over 50
Strength training (3-5 times a week) is one of the most beneficial forms of exercise to improve strength, bone health, joint stability and balance.
The benefits include:
- Builds lean muscle mass: Not Arnie Schwarzenegger style. Building strength allows you to continue doing all the things you’ve always done. As you move into post menopause and balance becomes less stable it will also help you to be able to get yourself up again.
- Builds bone density: Unexpected falls put many older people in the hospital every year. A child breaks their arm and gets back to playing in 8 weeks. For an older person, a broken bone can be devastating. Strength and balance training have been shown to reduce the incidents of falls as well as increase bone health.
- Decrease body fat: Too much body fat isn’t good for you at any age. Maintaining a healthy weight over 50 is even more important due to the increased risk of issues such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
- Lower the risk of chronic disease: Not only will strength training help ward off many chronic diseases, but it also helps lessen the symptoms or issues you may have now.
- Improve mental health: Getting strong improves your general confidence and self-sufficiency and so lessens the incidence of age related depression.
Start with two or three days each week with lighter weights progressing towards progressively heavier weight lifting.
Aim to target all major muscle groups working the lower body (thighs, hips, gluts), core (abdominals, transverse abdominum, back) upper body (shoulders, biceps, triceps).
Choose exercises that work multiple muscles.
The Glute Bridge is a good example of working the legs, gluts and lower back stabilizing muscles. Another great exercise is the Squat where you focus on working from your legs and hips through to the core. Consider holding a dumbell to increase the effects.
Another exercise for all over strengthening is the forearm plank.
High intensity interval training (HIIT)
What is HIIT?
High-intensity interval training is a form of exercise that mixes short bursts of high intensity exercise with recovery. It can be as simple as sprinting for 30 seconds and then jogging or walking for 90 seconds. And if you’re short on time, it’s even possible to break up your day into five minute sessions: just use those blocks of five minutes to do your intervals.
Why is HIIT so effective? HIIT uses a greater number of fast twitch muscle fibers when compared with low-intensity workouts. More muscle use equals more calorie burn and improvement in metabolic health.
What are the benefits of doing HIIT workouts?
Improved athletic performance: Do you want an excuse to skip your next gym session? This is it. The benefits of HIIT have been found in several studies to be more beneficial for athletes looking for an edge than traditional aerobic workouts or weight training.
For women over 50 : If you’re looking to improve your heart health HIIT would work very well.
HIIT promotes fat loss, improves insulin sensitivity and helps to control cortisol levels.
Including some weights as part of your HIIT workout is a great way of adding muscle to your routine.
What’s the difference between low-intensity and high-intensity exercise?
In general, HIIT workouts are characterized by short bursts of intense work followed by recovery.
Exercise in midlife and beyond isn’t just about keeping trim and looking good. Sure it helps you keep the weight off but there are so many more health benefits that it really is a nesessity.