“Age is just a number.” You have heard this said time and again, right? But did you know it is actually true? You may be 55, but look 40 and feel 35; or be 50, but look and feel 65. It all depends on how well you take care of your body and what you do to keep active.

Getting older may mean more years under your belt, but it shouldn’t mean that you stop being functional in everything you want to do. You probably won’t be able to do the same things, but did you know that with smart exercise choices you can still enjoy a quality life and do most stuff regardless?

Why Do You Need Exercise More Now Than Ever?

Exercise is definitely necessary at all stages of life, but here are a few reasons why smart exercise choices are even more important if you are over 50:

  • You lose a lot of muscle mass as you get older, and this makes exercise essential as it can help you rebuild your muscle base. In addition, even while resting, muscles burn more calories than fat, which in turn can aid your slowing metabolism.
  • Exercise helps stop/prevent, delay, and sometimes improve, serious illnesses (such as diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, high blood pressure, stroke, arthritis, and osteoporosis) especially if they are caused by inactivity over the years from demanding jobs or a busy lifestyle.
  • Your brain automatically stays sharp with regular exercise because it helps maintain cognitive function (thinking, learning, and judgment) as you grow older.
  • Regular exercise helps maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise reduces the risk of depression by making you generally feel good about yourself.
  • Weight-bearing exercises can also help improve your bone health by increasing bone density and reducing the risk of bone breakdown and osteoporosis.

“The most important benefit for seniors from exercise is that it can add years to your life, but it will also most certainly add life to your years.”

Paula Todd, Registered Fitness Trainer & Older Adult Specialist, The Fitness Network

Smart Exercise Choices – the Best Exercises for You 

Working smart beats working out a lot. As you grow older, pick out specific exercises that will immediately benefit your body. The best approach is primal/ functional movement patterns, which are exercises entailing basic moves that fall into simple categories of push, pull, rotation, single-leg (and double-leg). Lower-impact exercise, which requires less jumping and pounding, is kinder to your joints.

Regardless of age, everyone benefits from different kinds of exercise:

  • Cardiovascular or aerobic exercise can improve your heart rate and make you breathe better, build your endurance and burn calories. Walking, jogging, dancing, golfing, tennis, and swimming are all examples of aerobic exercise.
  • Strength or weight training helps keep your muscles ready for action. This includes lifting weights as well as exercises that involve resistance, e.g. working out with resistance bands; exercises with your own body weight (such as planks, push-ups, and sit-ups); rowing; chest fly; squats; lunges; cycling; and also Pilates. Even digging and shoveling in the garden work!
  • Flexibility exercises help improve or maintain overall flexibility, allowing you to stay limber so you can have a full range of movement and reduce the risk of injury to the muscles or joints. The most popular flexibility/stretching exercise is y
  • Balance training can increase or maintain body balance and prevent falls, especially after 50. As you get older, you stand a higher risk of falling. A balance exercise can be as simple as trying to stand on one foot. Tai Chi is the best exercise to train your body to balance better. Yoga too.

Some activities provide more than one type of exercise, benefiting you more per workout, e.g. aerobic exercises such as walking not only strengthen your cardiovascular system but also build your leg muscles. The key is to find something you love and enjoy and then incorporate movement into it.

How Much Exercise Do You Need?

Ideally, at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity weekly is recommended; i.e. 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week, or 15 minutes of vigorous exercise five days a week. Whichever way you split your time to do workouts, ensure at least 10 minutes per session are dedicated to aerobic exercise. It is better to spread out your workouts across over 3 or more days weekly.

If you haven’t been exercising for a while or are just starting some new activity that your body isn’t used to, start slow and then increase frequency and intensity. You can start with 10 minutes of light exercise and then gradually increase the time. Try tracking your progress using available machines or download an app to help you do it!

Remember to Hydrate

Drinking fluids is important while exercising. Sweat evaporating from your skin removes heat from the body. You also lose body fluid. Drinking fluids during exercise helps replace the fluids lost when you sweat, reducing the risk of heat stress and maintaining normal body functions.

When to Call Your Doctor

Before you jump into a new exercise routine, especially if it’s your first time, get your doctor’s approval first. The doctor can also advise you on the best exercises for you, based on any health issues you may have.

If you experience chest pain, dizziness, breathing problems, nausea, and balance problems when you exercise, let your doctor know early. Also, consider reducing the length or intensity of your workouts to see if that helps you feel better.

For more info on working out when you are over 50, check out WebMD’s guide here.