Around the time you hit 50 you should re-think your workout routine—either stepping it up or tweaking it so the exercise you do supports your body's changing needs. To help out I turned to celebrity trainer Kit Rich for advice. Here are her eight rules for exercising right in your 50s:
- Age is just a number . . . "What a person can and can't do, in terms of exercises and intensity, really depends upon the individual, at any age. One 50-year-old may feel fine performing a stationary lunge with weights, but another 50something with a knee injury may not feel comfortable performing the same exercise. I do think however that the 'extreme' exercise regimes such as the boot camp philosophy and constant repetitions of plyometrics are not the most appropriate for those over 50. I would focus more on low impact exercises. At any age, you should focus on stability exercises, strengthening, core strength, and flexibility."
- But your joints aren't what they used to be. "Even if you have been working out for decades, around the age of 50 your joints and muscles often lose both flexibility and strength. The muscle fibers shrink in size and number, and usually wear and tear on the joints, tissues and muscles from certain exercise regimes, everyday life habits and hormonal changes may also put a deeper strain on the body during exercise."
- Don't obsess over how your bum looks. "Some of the extreme regimes overdo exercises for the sake of aesthetics but when you get older, too much of an exercise can be overbearing for the joints and create too much tightness in the body." (And tightness over time = pain). So even if you want to tighten your derriere, "overworking the glutes, to the point where they become too tight, can also put strain on the back and hips." Not that you shouldn't work your glutes, because it's important to have strong ones, just keep in mind that "when you are 50 and older, balance of the body, protection of joints, and balance in strength needs to take precedence over aesthetics," adds Rich. "Fact is, if you work out consistently, you'll look good anyway but that's an added bonus."
- Cardio is crucial. Get your heart beating fast at least three times per week. "Whether it's biking, swimming, fast walking, or whatever you like to do, cardio is absolutely 100% a necessity for bone density and cardiopulomary health," says Rich. "It is just so important." (And helps you sleep better.)
- Try pilates (if you haven't already). "Pilates core exercises are so fantastic since they strengthen the deep abdominal muscles, the pelvic floor muscles, transverse abdominous, internal and external obliques, and rectus abdominus, while stretching muscles and supporting the hips and spine," she says. Start with a few private sessions with a pilates instructor, then ask if you're ready for small-group classes (which are less expensive) or to use some of the equipment on your own. It's never too late to start pilates—my mother began at 60 and now, at 70ish, looks taller and stronger than she did ten years ago (and than most other women her age, and her posture is far better than mine).
- The best exercises are low-impact and focused on flexibility and posture. "I love pilates roll-ups, weight training flys using free weights, seated rowing using a thera-band, and gentle versions of the yoga cobra pose," says Rich. "I also love classic push-ups and planks (or wall or table assisted ones) since they help strengthen some of the major muscles and there are so many different variations for whatever exercise level."
- Skip the weight machines. "I love resistance and stability exercises that require standing and using free weights! I am not a huge fan of machine weights at the gym, unless you're an exercise beginner or have an injury that requires you to sit. Performing resistance moves while standing helps improve core stability and overall balance."
- Don't forget your feet. "Focus a lot on the feet, since they get ignored, which can lead to injury that works its way up the body. So stretch and do flexibility exercises for the feet on a daily basis. You will notice quite an improvement in the other parts of your body when tension in the feet is alleviated."