It’s true, it’s not just your imagination. Your body is not responding to exercise like it did when you were younger. What used to work just fine, even great, probably won’t achieve the same result, producing a little less as time goes by. And you may have noticed, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and injuries can happen more often.
Here are some key physical changes that begin in your 50s that your fitness routine needs to accommodate:
- Flexibility starts to decrease, as the collagen in the tendons connecting your muscles to your bones decreases with age beginning at about 50
- Bone density and muscle mass begin to drop
- Moderate, continuous cardio like long walks or slow rides may feel easier on your body, but do not fight fat like they used to
- Recovery between workouts takes more time, and you will need to apply more effort to support that recovery
- The man (men?) in your life do not have the same issues you do, as your post-menopausal drop in estrogen significantly increases these impacts
Don’t despair, not even for a sec. Because research suggests that many of these age related changes to muscles, bones and joints can be reduced or reversed with exercise, along with the right nutrition and fitness regimen for your age.
Here are some tips we found to help you maximize your exercise time, energy and results in your glory days.
Stretching is not an option after 50. As you age, your joints become stiffer and less flexible because the amount of lubricating fluid inside your joints decreases and the cartilage becomes thinner. Ligaments also tend to shorten and lose some flexibility, making your joints feel stiff.
You should stretch for 10-15 minutes a DAY now, particularly the muscles you’ve just worked. Static stretching is best after the work out, although most people benefit from an active stretch prior to exercise as well.
Consider incorporating a total body stretch, involving all major muscle groups, a couple of times a week. This would ideally be done after each workout when muscles are warm but a deep stretch class is also nice.
You Need to Warm Up
You probably know that warming up before a workout prepares your muscles for exercise and increases joint range of motion. Warm-ups are particularly beneficial after 50 to offset decreased tendon elasticity that comes with aging.
Experts say it’s best to warm up with a combination of light cardio and light stretching. Although you can focus on warming up the specific muscles you’re about to use, a general lower body warm-up such as a light treadmill workout will benefit all muscles, including upper body.
Strength Training is Key
Resistance and strength training become a crucial part of an over 50 woman’s exercise program. There is a clear link between muscle mass and metabolism — muscle burns more calories at rest than fat — and you begin losing muscle significantly after menopause. Plus, increasing muscle and bone strength also prevents falls and fractures. You can use your own body weight, light weights or heavy weights ~ but you must do weight work at least twice a week. The good news is that you should leave a day for recovery in between strength training days, so every other day is just fine.
Intervals Are Better Than Long Slow Cardio
You still need cardio, of course, for reducing heart disease risk, which accelerates after 50. Going for an easy stroll with a friend is one way to get some cardio in, but it won’t do much for calorie burning. Intervals help you get double duty out of your cardio time, since moderate continuous cardio does not decrease belly fat. For that, you need high intensity efforts. Interval training where you alternate bouts of higher intensity cardio with “rest” or easier periods not only maximize the efficiency of your work out, they create an “after burner” effect called EPOC, where your body continues to burn a higher rate of oxygen and calories after you’ve finished your workout.
Your Body Must Rest
Exercise, whether it’s lifting weights or running intervals, basically damages your muscle fibers causing them to heal and strengthen. It is actually during the rest periods that your muscles reconstruct (or recover) stronger and increase in size and capacity. So the rest is literally as important as the work. And overtraining without enough recovery can cause elevated blood pressure, decreased immunity, and sleep disturbances to name just a few problems.
Taking a day off in between workouts is crucial to give your muscles time to recover and get stronger, and you may even find you need more recovery time after age 50. Experts say your recovery needs vary with your overall fitness level, and that recovery doesn’t necessarily mean sitting on your couch all day either. Walking, Yoga, Pilates, light jogging, or swimming can be considered “rest day” activities, depending on your fitness level.
The Scoop on Turning 50 is Brought to You by Charlotte Radiology Breast Centers
Charlotte Radiology is one of the nation’s largest radiology practices and has been serving the greater Charlotte area for nearly 50 years. The professionals at Charlotte Radiology believe the key to beating and detecting breast cancer early is quality mammograms starting at age 40 and continuing annually in to your 50s and beyond.
The two biggest risk factors for getting breast cancer are being a woman and getting older. In fact, the cancer incidence rate increases with age, making annual mammography even more important to women ages 50+. Of the breast cancers detected using mammography, over 28 percent were found in women between ages 40-49.
The bottom line is that early detection is the key to beating breast cancer. Annual screening results in lower call-back rates than does biennial screening and finds cancer at the earliest stage – providing a more favorable prognosis.