Of course we're all "going strong" into midlife, but even if you take fantastically good care of your body (and especially if you don't) there are a few places where you have to be more careful.
One of these is the gym, or anyplace where you work out. Exercises you've been doing for years can suddenly be too taxing for your joints and bones once you pass the mid-century mark, so you may need to incorporate new moves into your routine to maximize health.
But do not (repeat, not) use that fact as an excuse to cut back on gym time. It's more important than ever to exercise in your 50s, and yet another study proves it: New research done at the UT Southwestern Medical Center and The Cooper Institute (Journal Reference: Midlife Fitness and the Development of Chronic Conditions in Later Life. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2012) found that being physically fit through your 50s helps you live longer, and increases the chance that your longer life will be free of chronic illness.
Instead of letting your age hold you back, make the gym work harder for you, with these strategies for staying fit safely:
- Be a (yoga) poser. Regular yoga sessions increase flexibility like almost nothing else, while offering strength benefits and reducing stress. If you're new to yoga start with a beginner course or a class labeled "gentle" or "restorative." When you're doing yoga it's important not to push yourself to contort into or hold positions that are uncomfortable, but a good teacher should always offer "modifications" of a pose that make it suit your body's boundaries. Read more tips on doing yoga over 50 with this Yoga Journal Q&A.
- Call in the pros. Figuring out a gym routine that's truly safe and effective requires a personalized approach that can only be achieved through some professional advice. Personal trainers aren't only for the rich and famous, and you might find a good one at a local gym, but definitely don't trust just anyone—an improperly trained or inexperienced trainer can do more harm than good. To find a great trainer who's well educated in aging-related issues (and weed out the sketchy ones) read this guide from the International Council on Active Aging on how to select an age-friendly personal fitness trainer.
- Memorize joint-friendly moves. Just check out this Health Goes Strong video of great exercises that are easy on joints.
- Pump it up. There's no way to sugar coat this: We lose muscle mass as we age, and this loss of muscle is what can lead to those classic frail-oldperson symptoms (bad posture, slow, uncoordinated movements) down the road. There's even a name for it: Sarcopenia. The good news is that regular strength training can stop muscle loss, and these simple exercises build muscle safely.
- Get the go-ahead. But before you start any new exercise routine, heed this warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Experts advise that if you have a chronic disease, such as a heart condition, arthritis, diabetes, or high blood pressure, or symptoms that could be due to a chronic disease, it's important that you're under the care of a doctor and talk to him or her about the types and amounts of physical activity that are appropriate for you."
See you at the gym!
Healthy living tips for the 50+ brought to you by Crest & Oral-B ProHealth For Life