It’s not like I’m starting from scratch. Just from way behind the starting line. Exercising when you are over 50 comes with a whole bunch of new challenges.
Exercising over 50 is not for the weak
One of the biggest challenges I’m facing is getting fit again after having been inactive for so long. I used to be relatively fit and enjoy a wide range of activities. But now I’ve let the rust accumulate and it is difficult to get restarted.
Once I turned 50, it became harder and harder to keep up the levels of maintenance I needed to balance my diet with my fitness. Over the years I’ve lost muscle mass and flexibility. Aches and pains have made me reluctant to exercise because it takes more work to get fewer results.
The key to growing older, but not getting old, is to stay fit physically and mentally. But what it takes to exercise after aged 50 is not the same as what it took to get fit 10 years ago. I’ve actually got to work even harder than I used to.
When exercising over 50, how fit can I expect to get?
Time marches on. And it takes a little it of me with it as it goes. I’ll never be in the shape I was in my 30s. What level of fitness can I actually home to achieve over 50? What level of fitness do I really need to achieve, anyway?
Getting into the best shape of my life is really a relative situation. There is no doubt I can be in better shape than I’m in now. I can improve my levels of fitness easily with some movement and resistant exercises that tone vs reaching zeniths of muscularity and performance.
Getting a little bit fit is one thing. How fit do I want to be? The levels of exercise, time, and commitment needed may be more than I’m expecting. While improving myself from where I am now is definitely possible, can I really expect to reach the levels I have imagined for myself? And will I be able to maintain that level year after year going forward? I don’t want to be fit for a little while. I want to be fit for the rest of my life, which I hope will be many more decades.
Wear and tear have taken their tolls, too. Old injuries and losses of muscle mass mean that I need to alter my approach to getting back into shape. I can’t just lift some weights and expect the same results I used to get.
What can I still do, now that I am over 50?
Weight lifting regimen: That said, I can still lift weights and engage in resistance training. In fact, there are lots of benefits to weight training at aged 50 and older. It helps preserve bone density and overall health.
Walking and hiking: I’m probably done with high-impact activities like running. But walking, incline treadmill, and hiking are still well within my capacity. And walking with a weighted vest can burn as many calories as running, with far less risk of injury in both the short and long term.
Yoga and other movements: Yoga and tai chi are great for general fitness maintenance. They improve strength, flexibility, and balance. These are all things that tend to diminish with aging and idleness. It is also low-impact and has a low risk of injury.
Bicycling: I live in an area abundant with walking and bike trails. There are plenty of places where I can take long, secure rides. Bicycling in the cooler months also helps burn calories, builds stamina, and improves coordination and balance.
Swimming and water exercise: Swimming is a full-body workout like few other routines. There are also water-based aerobics and exercise classes for resistance and toning. These are available to me around the area I live, also.
How long can I do it”
The time I can spend exercising is really a matter of priority for me. If I set out a day with all the things I want to do, there are never enough hours. But what amount of time is reasonable to both get fit and stay fit?
Consistency is crucial in holding onto the beneficial gains made by exercise. A relapse of two weeks can take six weeks to regain lost fitness levels. So, even a little bit of time every day is better than a big push once every few months.
As I work to regain a baseline for fitness, I feel that spending at least 60-90 minutes a day on exercise is reasonable and doable. It is doable, that is, if I am committed to doing it. Thereafter, anywhere from 40 – 60 minutes a day of some kind of regular exercise should be sufficient to keep me at as good a level of fitness as I need to be on any given day.
How much sleep, food, and rest am I going to need?
Back in the day I could sleep very little, eat practically anything, and after a day or so be ready to push myself even harder on exercises. Now I need to spend as much attention on what I am doing when I’m not exercising as when I am.
Sleep is how my body is going to heal itself after strenuous workouts. Right now I aim for about 6 hours a night of sleep. Elite athletes often get 10-12 hours of sleep and there is data that indicates it improves performance by double digits. I don’t need to operate at that level, obviously. But I may have to tinker with my sleep schedule to make sure I’m getting all the benefits that sleep provides in terms of recovery.
Fueling my body now that my metabolism is slower and I have a dense layer of abdominal fat is a bigger challenge than when I was younger and could just pile on the carbs and then burn them right off. Sugar is now an enemy to my body as is “white carbs” like pasta, rice, and potatoes. To lose weight I have to focus on what goes into my body and when. I have been using intermittent fasting for the last couple of months, eating once in a 24 hour period. Now I am looking into a mix of alternate-day fasting and intermittent fasting. I’m also sticking with my commitment to cut processed sugar, white carbs, alcohol, most dairy, and most red meat. This will likely become the pattern of eating for the rest of my life.
Rest, like sleep, has restorative powers. It takes the body longer to both recover and develop from exercise. Over exerting is more likely to cause injury, and those injuries will take longer to heal, too. So I have to have a plan to exercise regularly, but also allow enough time to rest and recover between sessions.
My plans for the next two months
I’m working out a strategy for going from not having exercised to exercising in a purposeful way from now on. This isn’t just a plan for exercising over 50, it will be one that eventually becomes a plan for exercising over 60, 70, and onwards.
But I need to achieve a baseline of fitness to make that happen. Over the next two to three months, my plans are to get into a routine of exercising daily. It will be a mix of exercises that improve my stamina, flexibility, and strength. Daily workouts on the treadmill, a daily HIIT routine, and yoga every other day. I can include some occasional tai chi and other movement-oriented exercises.
I’ll start with about 15 to 20 minutes of each exercise, working my way up to about 40 minutes of each exercise. The main caveat is that the exercises have to be low-impact and be something I can do practically anywhere. It shouldn’t take any special equipment.
It will demand a commitment of time and purpose. But I know the rewards will be worth it.