Staying Active After 50

By on September 3, 2014
mature woman working on exercise equipment

By Luke Styles –

 

Health and sports scientists have demonstrated on many occasions that staying active and healthy when 50-plus can greatly extend your lifespan and more importantly, improve the quality of your life.

It is normal for people to become less active as they pass through middle age. Many people struggle to keep up with the sports that they enjoyed throughout their youth and early middle age and do not replace these activities with anything new. As your tendons and muscles get tighter, it becomes harder to get back into exercise. However, gentle exercise has many health benefits and even just walking every day will increase cardiovascular fitness, improve strength and stability and boost health in general.

Health benefits of exercise

There are many individual health benefits of exercising throughout life. The general health benefits are improved physical fitness, greater internal fitness and extended life expectancy.

One of the biggest killers of people over the age of 75 is falling; it causes more deaths per year in America than vehicle accidents. A serious fall can often cause broken bones and internal bleeding from which a person never recovers. Falls are far more common in people who are inactive and less fit. Staying active maintains stability and flexibility, which are needed to prevent falling. Reflexes are also dulled by inactivity and this increases the chances of stumbling and falling.

Exercise also helps to reduce the risk of developing diabetes, coronary heart disease, cancer and strokes. Leading a sedentary life is extremely unhealthy and, as you grow older, tends to lead to weight gain. For many people, gaining weight can become a huge problem that leads to reduced mobility and this can result in isolation, which in turn causes mental health problems. Loneliness and depression in old age is a mostly ignored problem that often has catastrophic consequences.

Any form of low-impact exercise is good for people in their 50s. Here’s a look at some of the best options.

Walking

Walking is possibly the best exercise and, while a short walk is not difficult, longer country walks and hill climbing can be a challenge at any age and provide an excellent workout that is also free.

Cycling

Cycling is also a good option because it is low impact and can be done outdoors for most of the year if you have proper clothing. Many cycle clubs cater for the older cyclist and one of the big benefits of joining a club is the social aspect of cycling. Often you see people cycling together and these are usually club members

In January 2014, Time magazine covered the story of 102-year-old Robert Marchand who cycled 16.7 miles in one hour, setting a new world record for a cyclist over 100 years of age. This is proof that you are never too old to cycle.

Swimming

Swimming is another very popular choice. Swimming works the whole body, not just the legs, and is zero impact. The only risk with swimming is the possible overexertion of the muscles in the upper back with some strokes, but if you take it easy and not try to be the next Michael Phelps you will be fine.

Tai chi

Tai chi has been shown to benefit health in older people. Tai chi is a gentle form of exercise that is based on the Chinese soft martial art of Tai Chi Chuan. It improves strength and balance as well as providing some internal health benefits.

Weight training

One form of exercise that has been shown to greatly improve health is weight training. Not only does weight training improve strength and stability better than any other exercise, research has shown that building muscle helps to prevent Type II diabetes. Weight training is also a low-impact exercise and, if you lift with good form, meaning in a standard way, there is very little risk of injury.

Whatever form of exercise you chose to do it is important to dress appropriately. Loose clothing with supportive underwear is recommended for all ages and, for added safety, it is important to wear men’s or women’s compression socks to improve circulation and reduce the risk of blood clotting.

Getting started

Getting started is really easy. You first need to decide if you are going to exercise privately or join a club. Exercising at home, or from your home, has many advantages. The biggest benefit for most people is that it is free and you can do it when you want. However, studies have shown that exercising with other people helps to keep you motivated and leads to faster fitness results. Groups often have a social aspect that can really make exercising more fun.

If you make exercise a social event it becomes more enjoyable and you soon stop noticing that it is exercise. Arrange country walks at weekends with family and friends: this will encourage others to get active too and it provides an opportunity for some social time.

 

Luke Styles is a reputable freelance writer with a passion for helping others. He is often found writing in his garden studio whilst watching the world go by.

 

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Staying Active After 50