Exercise Over 50
Let’s get one thing straight. You’re body thrives on exercise. If you’ve never exercised before your body is still yearning for that thing it never did. When you stop moving you start rotting. That doesn’t sound too pleasant, I know. It isn’t too great for your body either. Unfortunately, it’s the truth.
If you want to feel good and look young, you need to exercise. If you want to beat back osteoporosis, you need to exercise. If you want to prevent or reverse heart disease, you need to exercise. Are you sensing a pattern here? The aches and pains that you’re feeling, the general tiredness, all of those things recedes into the background when you exercise. If you continue to exercise, they stay in the background where they can’t bother you much.
There are other benefits to exercise. For some of you, this is the decade of the fading sex drive. The hormones for lust and physical performance circulate throughout your bloodstream. (I am hugely simplifying this so we can make the point and move on. There are whole books devoted to this subject.)
When you get old and inactive your circulation suffers. All members of your body that depend on circulation suffer. When you exercise you improve your circulation. If you have been distressed by a lack of interest (or just a lack of performance) in sex, exercise can help.
For the other half of the population, this is the time of the hot flash. Menopause has entered the scene and she will make herself known. We all know people who have a hard time with menopause. Either they are hot and cold or they suffer from mood swings and illness. Sometimes the extra-lucky have all three types of symptoms. Women who are in shape seem to have an easier time of it during menopause.
If you aren’t in shape, start exercising now and you will still have relief from some of the menopausal symptoms. Researchers aren’t sure yet why this is, but who cares? It may be because women who are in shape have less body fat, or it may be something else entirely. As long as you will find some relief that should be enough incentive for you.
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A Fitness Reality Check
You aren’t going to experience all of these benefits from a couple of regular rounds of golf or from puttering in your garden. Those activities may be fun, but they aren’t exercise. I have no idea who started the rumor that walking a golf course once in a while could make up for actual exercise. It’s an idea that a lot of people look at as written Truth with a capital ‘T.’
If you want to feel good and look good you need to be exercising at something that makes you hot and sweaty—and stop snickering. You know what I mean. Your heart rate has to be elevated, and you need to feel slightly out of breath at the very least. You need to do this type of workout six days a week. Stop screaming. When you were 20, you could get away with a couple of days at the gym and a strict diet that you followed most of the time. You had the muscle mass to burn off the slack. You had youth on your side.
At 50 you no longer have the ‘youth boost.’ You get what you pay for. If you don’t exercise, what you’re paying for is a flabby, tired body that doesn’t want to work the way it should. It’s just like that old saying—garbage in, garbage out. But if you do exercise, those 20 year olds will be eating your dust.
Don’t believe me? Look at the celebrities you see in the movies and on the news. These are people who live by their looks. They eat right and exercise every day. As a result they look years younger than the rest of the population.
How to Exercise Safely and Effectively
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1) Your minimum working heart rate range drops 10 beats per minute (BMP) from what it was when you were 40. You need to keep track of where you are in your range to keep yourself safe.
2) Most people think they’re working out harder than they really are. The heart rate monitor keeps you honest. Hey, there’s no reason to work out unless it’s doing something for you, right?
Everyone who is serious about fitness buys a heart monitor. Since you are going to make fitness an important part of your life you need to have the proper tools. You can get a simple heart monitor for about $60. If you want something that will automatically calculate your optimal health range for your age, weight, and gender, and keep track of how many calories you’re burning, that will run you about $100. You can shop for a heart monitor at HeartRateMonitorUSA.com. Just don’t go crazy with all of the bells and whistles. You don’t need those to get the job done.
Pay Attention to Your Body
This is the key to exercising without pain. If you’ve never exercised before (or it has been a really long time) you are going to be sore the next day for the first week or so. Just expect it. Your body will take a little time believing that you actually mean to give it what it needs. It will take a little time for it to adapt to what you’re doing. Follow the guidelines below, but keep an eye on how you feel throughout the program.
…If you’re active.
Those of you who have kept in shape can still perform your favorite fitness activities. There is no reason for you to give up running if you still feel good while doing it. The one thing you will notice is that you don’t recover nearly as fast as you used to. If you challenge yourself fitness-wise (and you should, occasionally) with a high intensity activity, remember to give yourself time to recover. You don’t have to take the next day off, just go light.
…If you’re sedentary.
It’s a good idea for the active folk to stay active. For you, getting active is a necessity. But you have to start slowly. You’ve lost a significant amount of muscle mass. Even worse, your joint, tendon, and ligament flexibility has gone into the toilet.
Focus on high intensity exercises that don’t jolt your joints. If you like the treadmill, for instance, turn the incline up and walk briskly uphill. This is better than keeping the incline flat and running. You will get a good workout without damaging your joints.
Assess how you feel after each workout. Your body is in a constant state of change. An activity that is too hard for you to do when you’re first starting out will be doable just a few months later. Don’t let yourself fall into a rut. Once an activity feels good, change things up a bit. Add more intensity or try something completely new. This will keep your body from adapting to the exercise.
Adapting sounds good, but it isn’t, in this case. When you adapt to an exercise you will no longer progress in your fitness goals. Changing your activity here and there forces the body to keep improving because it can’t predict what you will ask it to do next. You will be sending the signal that your body needs to improve as fast as possible to keep up with the changing circumstances.
On the other hand, if you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck, back off a little and progress more slowly. You don’t want to kill yourself. If you can’t get out of bed for three days afterward, you pushed it too hard. This doesn’t do anything for your body. And the key is to feel better not worse, right? Tone it down a little.
Everybody should be exercising six days a week. When you were in your 40’s you had the option to start with three days of exercise a week and gradually work your way up. You don’t have that option at 50. The forces of decay are working too fast. You don’t have that kind of time. Black out an hour and a half of time.
You will exercise for 45 minutes and use the other 45 minutes to get to the gym and change. Let’s discuss what you will do when you get there.
What to Do
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For The Over 40 Crowd
Work on cardiovascular activities four days out of six. It can be any activity you want—swimming, biking, aerobics, the elliptical trainer—so long as you work out for 45 minutes in your aerobic zone. Don’t forget to warm up, cool down, and stretch during that time.
Your warm up can be a slow 2-3 minute walk. The same goes for the cool down. After your warm up, stretch the muscles you are about to work. This will cut down on your chance of injury.
This becomes even more important now than it was ten years ago. Weight train a minimum of two days out of six. If you want to cut back on one cardio day to work out with weights, go ahead. Strength training will help prevent osteoporosis. If you already have osteoporosis or have lost bone density, strength training can help your body reverse the effects.
If you’ve never weight trained you will want to either hire a personal trainer to help you learn the proper forms or talk a knowledgeable friend or relative into doing it for free. If you are very weak, I advise you to spend the money on a professional who has worked with mature adults just entering weight training. He or she will know how to help you in a safe, effective manner. Besides, that young relative may inadvertently hurt you—or treat you like a fragile flower when you aren’t! Once you know what you’re doing, try out the body weight moves listed in the ‘fitness at 40’ section of this book.
Balance and Core Moves
The folks in their 40’s were told to work on balance exercises once a week. You will work on balance and core exercises 2-3 three times a week, on the same days you do your weight training. This is going to protect you from all of those nasty falls that break bones and put you out of commission.
Start with the balance exercises you will find on page 12. Add in a set of crunches and cobras (see below).
Lie on your back. Put your hands behind your head and look up at the ceiling. Continue looking up at the ceiling as you pull your shoulder blades up off the floor. Carefully lower yourself back down. Do as many as you can comfortably fit into 15 seconds. Do not compromise your form. This is one set. Beginners: Start with 1 set. Advanced: Start with 2 sets and work up to three.
Lie on your stomach. Your hands should be flat on the floor by your ears. The idea is to lift your upper body up off the ground and hold it for a count of two without using your hands. If you can’t do this yet, then use your hands to help you a little bit. Try to do five, but stop before your head pops off. Remember to breathe. Gradually work your way up to 10. This is one set. Beginners: Start with 1 set. Advanced: Do two sets to start and work your way up to three.
When in doubt, start slower and easier than you think you need to. It’s far better to be bored the first week than hurt yourself and never come back. Gradually make the workouts harder. The key is to be consistent.
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