If you’re already physically active, keep up the good work. But if you’re not, it’s never too late to start. Exercising after age 50 can not only help increase your average lifespan but also help lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis. And for women it may ease some of the symptoms of menopause, like hot flashes, trouble sleeping and joint pain.
Researchers from the University of Mississippi and the University of California, San Francisco looked at the DNA of 6,500 adults and found that exercise prolonged life in those ages 40-64.
Everyone should check with their physician before beginning a new exercise program.
Here are my top 5 most effective exercises for those over 50:
Yoga practice for those over fifty should be a moderate class such as hatha class where poses are simple and held for 20 to 30 seconds. “It is important to support the heart and not over work or strain, or as I tell my students when you struggle and strain in yoga and in life is when you get hurt,” says Lynn Anderson, Ph.D., a natural health expert, faculty member to the American Council on Exercise and Prime of Life Yoga instructor for those over 50.
Yoga is a physical practice that emphasizes movement, breath, focus and meditation. This brings a deeper awareness of how connected we are body and mind. By moving the body to improve circulation and then taking the time to relax the body and quiet the mind to reduce stress, yoga is a great exercise for heart health and well-being for those over fifty.
#4) WEIGHT TRAINING
Strength training is no longer about looking buff. The #4 Exercise in our list of most effective exercises for those over 50 It’s fairly critical to your overall health and can help alleviate many health problems you’re likely to face over 50. What’s more, women lose up to five percent of their lean muscle tissue per decade, starting in their 30s—and that number increases after 65.
According to the study, there’s a direct correlation between good health and muscle mass. The more muscle you have, the better your metabolism performs, the easier it is to keep weight down and your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes plummets, as well as your chances of falling and sustaining an injury.
Weight training includes using your body weight against itself, and lifting small hand weights. Try squats, lunges, ab curls and a variety of arm lifts with 2-10 pound hand weights. Twice weekly strength training is recommended along with a form of cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise.
#3) AEROBIC EXERCISE
Walking, jogging, swimming and dancing are great options. Aerobic exercise works the large muscles in your body and benefits your cardiovascular system. Try to work up to 20 minutes daily five days per week when beginning but even 5-10 minutes daily is better than nothing. To know if you’re hitting your target aerobic capacity, you should be able to carry on a conversation while working out, but not really feel much like talking.
Pilates is a blend of stretching and calisthenics designed to enhance alignment and increase flexibility. It can be especially helpful for the midsection, a particular trouble spot fifty-somethings face. The body conditioning system is made up of various exercises that can help older adults build strength by improving flexibility, agility and range and ease of motion. Pilates is known to improve posture, increase joint stability and core strength, helpful in carrying out everyday tasks like lifting grocery bags and having the stamina to tackle household projects.
You can find both mat and machine Pilate’s classes at gyms, Y’s and fitness centers. A good beginning class can introduce you to the exercise and an instructor can show you the proper alignment and movements.
The #1 most effective exercise for those over 50 is fairly simple and easy to do. Stretching should be like brushing your teeth. If you’re not already on board, give it a go every day. A little bit of daily stretching is a good thing since older bodies tend to become stiffer and develop tight muscles.
Don’t hold a stretch if there is pain; stretching should feel like good tension. Try these standing stretches: Reach overhead–fingers to sky; bend over at the hips and reach toward the floor; bend chin to chest to release tight neck and shoulders; hula hoop with hips in a circle to open up tight hip muscles; and while standing pull each foot one at a time to the buttocks to get a lengthening quad stretch of the thigh.
You can use stretching movements both before and after other exercise or by itself to feel longer, leaner and more limber.
Other Points to Consider
Beside structured exercises, think about adding activity to your life in general. Get out and hike, climb and play whenever possible. Hit a tennis ball around the court, or ride bikes. Try wearing one of OMRON’s activity monitors or pedometers to monitor your physical movement, which can encourage you to track and set goals for exercise.
The Alvita Ultimate Pedometer, for instance, allows you track your steps accurately from your purse or pocket and select four distinct activity modes to better gauge your fitness.
Aim for 10,000 steps a day—about five miles of walking, a goal that originally came from Japan’s pedometers in the 60s, which were called “manpo-kei,” or ten thousand steps. But research since has backed the 10,000 number in many studies that indicate this amount of walking lowers blood pressure, lowers glucose levels and offers other health benefits.
Remember, the time it takes to recover after any workout may start to slow down with age. If you walk five miles one day, the next day try yoga or a less rigorous workout.
And your program should include warming up (walking or light stretches) before exercise and more intense stretches (such as sitting spread-eagle and bending forward) afterwards. Many yoga classes have a heavy stretch component, making them perfect for maintaining flexibility.