There is no question that living a long and happy life is greatly enhanced the living a fit and healthy one.
Any medical professional worth their salt will espouse the benefits of staying within the optimal BMI (however flawed that measurement may be) and participating in regular sweaty exercise.
The reality is, sadly, that as we age, not all fitness plans are created equal.
People who have decided to invest in their health for the first time in over 50 years often find themselves in all sorts of trouble, and even those who have lead active lives are often cruelly reminded that while we may feel like spring lambs inside, outside the mutton has come.
Taking up marathon running at the same time as our knees decide to turn to chalk is a sure fire way to be reminded of the frailty of flesh. As Terry, a 57 year old personal trainer who has never missed a workout in his life, says “When blokes my age come to me and say they’d like to take up a high impact sport, I ask them which joints they are looking to replace first.”
Of course, every body is different, and the risk of injury may be higher for people who have lead fairly sedentary lives up until this point, but even gym junkies can find themselves in a world of hurt when the body they have always relied upon to keep them moving decides that enough is enough.
If you don’t want to end up worse off when you do decide to get fit, or remain, there are some definite must do’s and must don’ts for the over 50.
Do include moderate weightlifting.
Strength training is vital as we age. Women and men both learn that hormonal changes start leeching calcium and other minerals from our skeleton. Muscles support bones and keep them moving. Weight training, with careful instruction and supervision, should be part of every workout for everyone over 45.
Free weights or machines that are kept to shoulder height, or are used out in front of your body are fantastic at building and maintaining muscle. Pilates uses your own body weight to support itself. This is as strong as you need to be. Anything extra at this point is pretty meaningless in terms of health. You want to be able to get up off the floor without assistance, you want to have tight, trim muscle mass that works as the rope and pulley system with your bones for your body. If there is too much fat there, the ropes cannot move properly. If the ropes are too large, they will damage the pulleys (your joints). Think about balance, you want to be built to perfection, not over built.
DO NOT believe that now is the time to show those young ones what is what. Yes, if you have always bench-pressed twice your body weight and your biceps are bigger than your waist, you may be equipt to pump iron Hercules style. Do not be surprised when your rotator cuff and kneecaps exercise their rights to give up the ghost. Not only will overhead presses ( where you push weights up and over your head) , back extensions ( like the Roman chair) and pull ups or pull downs damage your shoulders and lower back, if you do tear or over work any of these important soft tissues, tendons or joints your aging cells will not recover as they once did. It’s not depressing, it’s a fact. Yes, you can keep your body flushed with vitamins and minerals to assist healing, but you will suffer disproportionately as you age. Push yourself, but not to breaking point. That ship has sailed, and who are you trying to impress?
Do include moderate cardio.
Swift paced walking, cycling, fencing, boxing, surfing, swimming, Zumba, dancing, sex, all of these activities are fantastic for getting the heart pumping without sending it into orbit or damaging other parts of yourself along the way. 30-60 minutes of cardio a day that makes you sweaty but not breathless is exactly what you want to be healthy and well. You should be able to speak at normally while you are exercising and to be able to hold a sensible conversation (except, obviously, for the sex thing but if you are honestly managing more than 30 continuous minutes at this stage, as you were champion). You can do a little more if you want. But just a little. By all means, enter a 10km run and feel free to walk for half of it. Or all of it if you like. Playing fetch with a dog that has no idea how to fetch is a great way to get exercise, so is washing the car. The reason experts say that you only need moderate cardio at this point should be obvious. Suddenly deciding to go hell for leather after 50 is a sure fire way to end up on a stretcher strapped to an ECG machine. Don’t fancy a heart attack? Don’t attack your heart. Simple as that. Build up your cardio, or maintain a reasonable level if you’ve always built it in.
DO NOT take up vastly stressful levels of heart thumping exercise now. People who think that they can cover a 42 km marathon now, just like they used to or as a new hobby, are begging for their hips, knees and feet bones to leave home, and for their heart and lungs to aim for the exit signs. You know that sinewy look that runners have? That’s the look that screams osteoporosis. For the same reason we don’t need to show anyone at the gym how big our neck muscles can be, we don’t need to break land speed records at 60. Leave that to the hungry ones. Honestly, at this age, where are you running to? Again, we are not saying ‘give up’, we are saying ‘get real’. If you don’t want to spend the next 30 years on painkillers, think about what it is you are trying to achieve. Health and wellness is not akin to being covered in tiger balm and groaning every time you move. That’s not sexy it’s silly, and its preventable.
As we age, we must embrace the things of age. Wisdom, experience, and the knowledge that those annoying ‘all things in moderation’ folks were right. It is true of chocolate, late nights, red wine, and exercise.
As we age, we must embrace the things of age. Wisdom, experience, and the knowledge that those annoying ‘all things in moderation’ folks were right. It is true of chocolate, late nights, red wine, and exercise.


Calm Down, It’s Just Another Sexual Revolution

Gender fluidity discussions seem to be all the rage right now- and the amount of rage they can cause is deeply disturbing. New terms like LGBTQI+ and hot topics like toilet allocations get everyone very hot and bothered. And not in a fun way…

Less Motivation, More Determination

Anyone remotely alive- and that means all of us- know what it is like to feel like the wind has been taken out of our sails and we are sitting, to take the metaphor to it’s natural conclusion, like a rudderless rowboat in the centre of the Doldrums…

Old Town New Tricks

Founded in 1296 and located some 700 kilometres north of Bangkok, Chiang Mai has long played an important role in not only the economy and history of Thailand, it has also been a hugely significant political hub…

Self-Cleaning Cells

Fasting, or IF- Intermittent Fasting- seems to be the dieting buzzword du jour. 5/2, 8/16, 24/7/365 (ok, the last one isn’t real) the numbers roll

Eat Your Flowers

Recent weather nightmares and continued lockdowns remind us that having enough food in the house to hold out for a few days is one of those important basics that …