With many of my clients falling in this age group I thought it would be fitting to spend some time going over some of the dos and don’ts of working out when you’re 50 years and older.
This is a 2 part series: in part 1, I’ll be going over some fitness principles that still apply even if you’re older. In part 2. I’ll give you some practical tips on how to get started.
So let’s get going with part 1.
Some things still hold true
First of all it’s important to recognize that just because you’re older doesn’t mean you’re in a completely different category. Well, you are, but at the same time you aren’t. There are tons of things that still hold true, and that will apply to your fitness regardless of age. Here are some of them:
- Both cardio and weight training are still important
- Weight training is especially important as you get older in order to maintain muscle mass
- And cardio keeps your heart healthy
- The intensity of your workouts is still important: your body adapts to whatever stress you impose on it, and your body is lazy. If there is no stress, your body has no reason to change the status quo.
- Frequency still counts: ideally you should be doing something active every day, even if it just involves a walk. Being in your 40s or 50s doesn’t mean you get to slack off.
- Flexibility counts even more! Joints get more stiff as you get older. Working on flexibility through stretching and foam rolling (and even getting a massage once in awhile because why the heck not?) will do you wonders.
Your risk of injury might be higher
Now that being said, it’s also important to recognize that your risk of injury might be higher than when you were younger. Throughout your life you’ve likely had injuries or developed areas of weakness. These don’t go away and make themselves known the older you get.
So it’s important to start slow – as boring as that might be! – and progress only when you have a strong enough level of fitness. You don’t want a silly preventable injury to take you out of commission.
Starting with simple moves is also a good way to go. There are tons of exercises that are simple yet incredibly effective at building your strength. In part 2 of this post I will go over that in more detail.
Finally, two more serious things to consider: osteoporosis and sarcopenia. Fancy words, I know, but don’t worry, I’ll explain! Osteoporosis is the loss of bone density and it’s a normal process of aging. It means your bones lose their strength and are more prone to breaking – which is why older adults will break a hip from just a simple fall. Sarcopenia is the degenerative loss of muscle mass as we get older. Essentially the muscles atrophy if they are not used, and it happens more dramatically the older we are.
Exercise, however, helps with both osteoporosis and sarcopenia. Through exercise, you place stress on your body – and this includes your bones! Gentle stress makes your bones adapt, aka get stronger! Weight training builds muscle, which slows down the effect of sarcopenia. Stronger bones and stronger muscles means you will live a longer, independent life!
Your body has been through shit already
Your body has been through a lot of changes. Maybe you’ve had kids. Maybe you’ve been through a divorce. Maybe you have a stressful job. Maybe you’ve spent years feeding your body crap food. The list can go on and on.
All of these take its toll on your body – and notice how some of them are psychological things rather than physical things. Those count too and cannot be dismissed.
I want you to be kind to yourself. Lots of people think that this kind of stuff is in the past but the body needs time to heal and you need to allow it to do so – and also be mindful of the fact that it may still be healing!
In addition, your body might be molded in certain positions from years of doping repetitive work, or having bad posture (rounded shoulders, a result of computer work, is one example that comes to mind) so again, you might find certain exercises challenging, or your range of motion might be decreased.
That’s just the reality you have to deal with – but know that exercising and treating your body right will only improve on those things!
Your results might take longer
Clients over 45 come to me having fallen off the bandwagon many times. These ups and downs in fitness and nutrition affect your body which means your results may take longer to show. It’s important to celebrate the small victories – doing your workout 3x per week, for example, or having stuck to that nutrition goal for a whole month. These are awesome things to be happy about, which contribute tons in your quest for ultimate fitness!
In fact, your body is changing, even though it may not do so in the most obvious way! Your heart rate will go down as your cardio improves. Your endurance will go up and you’ll be able to do your cardio for longer or do more of those nasty push-ups. You’ll find that you have more energy. You’ll sleep better. Be more optimistic.
Celebrate these little victories because they are so crucial to your motivation!
Your goals might be different
Here’s the thing – when you were in your 20s maybe your fitness goal was to turn yourself into a sex bomb. That may or may no longer be a realistic expectation, or may not even be what you want to focus on anymore. Your goals may have a deeper and more meaningful importance now. They may be more connected to keeping yourself healthy long term, having more energy, and, as you start to think of retirement – being active may be a crucial thing to prolong your independence for as long as possible. Your goals may circle around re-discovering yourself and what is truly important to you. They may be more spiritual and that may surprise you!
I find that clients in their 40s and 50s are now finally able to focus on their own person after years of neglecting themselves, by constantly needing to focus on others: kids, for example. They are often not sure what it is that they want anymore because they haven’t had to think about that in a while, and that’s ok.
Here is the strategy that I use for goal setting with my clients:
- Start with a simple goal, whatever that is. If that’s weight loss, that’s ok. Write it down
- Ask yourself why this goal is important to you – and once you write down that answer, ask yourself why THAT is important. Then ask yourself why THAT is important yet again! This will help you dig a little deeper than the surface goal you have just set. Expect that getting to the core of why that goal is important may take a while.
- Finally, make a list of barriers that might prevent you from reaching this goal – and then brainstorm a list of plan B solutions – this will make it less likely that you can come up with excuses to not do what you said you would do.
Here’s an example:
A client comes in saying they want to lose 20lb.
“Why do you want to lose 20lbs?”
“Because I want to be lighter and now I feel too heavy”
“Why is that important to you?”
“Because I want to have more energy energy?:
“Why is it important to you that you have more energy?”
“Because I want to be able to play with my grand kids!”
Ah well! Turns out there was something a bit deeper underneath that weight loss goal
How about you? What are yours?
When you’re in your 40s and 50s, it becomes even more imperative to stay active! It’s important to recognize that there are still many elements of fitness that still apply to you, and also that past injuries and weaknesses may show their ugly heads. And while results might take longer, your body IS changing, and you need to celebrate small victories. Finally, your goals may be different at this stage in your life and it’s ok that it takes longer for you to figure out what’s truly important to you.
After being skinny unfit for the majority of my life, I discovered fitness by accident once I became a mom and started working out with my husband. A couple of years later, I started Tone Every Zone out of an overwhelming desire to help other busy individuals and couples juggle a hectic lifestyle while staying active.
My mission is to teach people about fitness and work with them as a team to make long lasting lifestyle changes. My personal values include being professional, honest and transparent in all of my doings but also being funny and silly because that’s what makes life (and your training sessions) fun!
Every day I hear from tons of couples who are dying to get more active but they just need that extra push! Getting people started on a fitness program is what I love to do. Check out my personal training packages and share your story with me so I can help you reach your fitness goals!