Is 50 really over the hill?
A recent surge in exercise interest among Baby Boomers has brought old stereotypes into question. Retirement communities are transforming themselves from the staid neighborhoods they once were into thriving social centers where residents can choose between dozens of different sports clubs and leagues.
At the very least, today’s trends reveal that our bodies still have a lot of fight in them. We may not be as spry as we once were, but you’ll learn pretty quick that you’ve still got the ability to perform exercises that can drastically improve your health.
#1 Walk for 20 minutes a day 3-4 times a week
Of all the forms of aerobic activity, walking is the simplest. Aside from a decent pair of shoes, you don’t need to pay for any equipment and memberships at the local gym aren’t required.
The benefits of walking – and any aerobic activity – are particularly beneficial for women.
“Physical activity may help tame some of the symptoms of menopause -- hot flashes, joint pain, and sleep problems. Exercise also lowers your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis,” WebMD says. “The effects of exercise are so potent that it influences every physiological system in the body for the better.”
A good pace is one that gets your heart rate up but still allows you to carry on a conversation without getting winded. Try for 10,000 steps a day, a goal you can track with any number of popular fitness trackers.
#2 Balance Training Throughout the Day
Our stability tends to degenerate as we get older, leading to falls and spills we just aren’t used to. Part of the reason our balance fades is that we don’t regularly work the muscles used to keep us upright.
In a 2007 article for Fox News, reporter Karlie Pouliot talked with New York-based fitness instructor Mirabai Holland about Baby Boomer fitness programs.
Holland said most Boomers rush into exercise after not doing any consistent physical activity in years. The result? Herniated disks, strained muscles and frustration.
Balance exercises serve as a way to ease your body back into a fitness routine. Here are some of the tips that Holland shared with Fox News:
- Stand on one leg for 10 seconds
- Switch legs and repeat
- Stand on your tippy-toes and hold for a few seconds
The beauty of these exercises is that you can do them just about anywhere – in line at the store, on the golf course and at home. They may not seem like much, but we can guarantee you two things: It will be harder than you think, and it will help you more than you know.
#3 Take a Ride on the Elliptical
Fitness zealots tend to denigrate the elliptical because it provides perfect motion for the body, eliminates stress on the joints and is the Cadillac of cardio machines.
If you’re 25 and zipping your way through every free weight station in the gym, then, yes, the elliptical will seem like a waste of time.
But when you’re in your 50s and 60s, a low-impact cardio workout is just what you need.
Ellipticals at most gyms include several different intensity patterns and levels, as well as a charger for your phone and audio that connects to television monitors on the machine or up above. The elliptical gives you everything need to be comfortable while you work out.
“One of the benefits of proper exercise is the easing of stiffness and joint pain. For people over 60, this means the best kind of equipment offers low-impact and controlled movements,” LiveStrong contributor Amanda Dunnavant wrote. “An elliptical machine is safe because you never pick your foot up from the machine. This provides a lower risk of landing incorrectly.”
#4 Adopt a Regular Stretching Routine
Just like the balance training we mentioned earlier, stretching keeps your body limber enough to do the cardio exercises you love.
For most of us, the key area of our bodies is our back. Keeping the muscles around our spine loose and ready to exercise should be a top priority.
Stew Smith, a workout expert for Military.com, says back stretches are important for athletes of all levels. In many cases, he says, elite athletes focus a lot on their abdominals but forget their back.
“If the lower back, legs, and hips are not flexible or strong, the lower back will pull involuntarily, usually causing spasms,” Smith wrote.
Two of the easiest stretches you can do don’t take much movement at all.
Lie flat on your back, lift up one of your knees and pull it slowly toward your chest. Not everyone is going to have the same flexibility level, so don’t feel like you’ve got to push yourself beyond what’s comfortable. Repeat with your other leg.
The second stretch involves lying on your chest and then lifting your arm and opposite leg off the ground. Sounds like a piece of cake, but it’s not. You’ll feel the burn a few seconds after you start. Keep it up, though; your back needs it.
#5 Join a Yoga Class at Your Gym
Many local YMCA’s offer yoga classes specifically designed for older gym members.
Lest you be scared off by the thought of contorting your body in ways that just don’t seem enjoyable, WebMD’s Katherine Tweed assured readers that yoga has several poses that age well.
One of the best poses for Boomers is the tree pose. Stand with your arms extended above your head, palms together. Then, raise your right leg off the ground just high enough so that your toes are touching the ground but your heel is touching the inside part of your left ankle.
Try holding this pose for 20-30 seconds, Tweed said. The more balance you master, the higher up you can bring your foot.
Are You Ready to Get Fit?
Getting in shape – or at least preparing to get in shape – doesn’t require heavy weights or high-impact exercises.
These early stages of fitness are more about getting your body ready for faster walking and running than they are about building tons of muscle and trimming pound after pound of weight.
Once you nail down these habits, you can move on to more strenuous work. Remember, though, check with your physician before starting a new workout routine.
This Lifestyle Health Care Blog is proudly sponsored by SKIN GUARDS.