New Rules For Fitness After 50

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Tracy Schultz Richardson lives and keeps fit in Chapel Hill

If you’re finally over the 50 hump and still exercising the same way as a decade ago, you may want to re-think your training. You may already notice that your body is no longer responding to your work-out regime quite the same way as it did in your 30s and 40s. Are you experiencing more joint aches and pain in your muscles? Fatigue might be hitting you harder than it used to. Aging changes the paradigm for our body and ignoring the fact that it means we need to alter HOW we treat our machine will cost us on the fitness front.

This doesn’t mean that exercise and keeping fit is ANY less important. As a matter of fact, it is MORE critical now than ever. Maintaining muscle mass, bone density, and agility is critical to keep us KUEL women moving and able to live the life we want. We may have to ‘adjust’ but that doesn’t mean we have to ‘slow’ down.

Stretch After Every Workout

It used to be that stretching was a ‘nice to have’ and if you managed to get in some stretch time a few days a week you were good to go. Post 50, stretching should be part of the end of every workout. Remember when we were little and our parents would sit on the ground with us to play? Not sure about your parents, but mine came with an audio track of grunts and groans…. and, maybe some whispered expletives on their way back to standing. Staying flexible is critical if we want to maintain agility in our everyday endeavors.

“Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. Then, when you call on the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way. That puts you at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage”. – Harvard Health Publishing

It’s important to stretch warm, not cold, muscles. “When everything is cold, the fibers aren’t prepared and may be damaged. If you exercise first, you’ll get blood flow to the area, and that makes the tissue more pliable and amenable to change,” physical therapist, David Nolan of Massachusetts General Hospital points out.

Focus On Strength Training

In our 30s and 40s, it was easy to stay fit by running three times a week, attending spinning classes, and/or spending hours on that crazy elliptical contraption at the gym. Now, after 50, bone density and muscle mass have taken a header off a cliff and we are faced with a real need to change how we spend our fitness minutes. Working on keeping our muscle mass and bone density plays a big role in warding off unwanted weight gain and preventing falls and fractures. The focus of the rewards of exercise shift dramatically in our 50s from the skin’s surface to the inner workings of our chassis.

By no means, should you stop all cardio. The risk of heart disease accelerates as we age. “If [the heart’s] not exercised regularly, blood and fluids start accumulating, and pressure rises in the chambers and blood vessels,” says Nieca Goldberg, founder of the Women’s Heart Program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. Ignoring the heart muscle opens the door for cardiovascular disease – which strikes 1 in 3 adult women, according to the American Heart Association (AHA) – and, even worse, could lead to a heart attack. It is important to maintain cardio sessions in your weekly routine.

Use Interval Training

Remember the long stretches on the stair climber or the recumbent bike? Well, if you do; forget them. Slow and steady might be ok for overall cardio health; but it does nothing for burning fat. And, why not achieve both in the same workout. Not many of us have time to squeeze in multiple types of exercise routines; so finding those that can reward us in multiple ways is key.

Interval training, alternating bouts of high intensity cardio with resting periods, creates an effect called EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). This is a state in which your body continues to burn a higher rate of oxygen and calories once you’ve finished your workout. It’s kinda like having a ‘freebie’ workout thrown your way while you’re watching a movie or reading a book post exercise.

Whether you choose a HIT or Tabata session, matters little. Tabata, is a type of HIT, originally designed as a four-minute workout consisting of 8 rounds of 20 seconds of work at maximum effort, followed by 10 seconds of rest. Once you deviate from the classic four-minute structure, you’ve entered HIT territory. HIT sessions can use any combination of max effort to rest time periods. You can read more about the similarities and differences between the two in this Shape article.

Don’t Skimp on Recovery

Taking one day off between weight training sessions may not be enough any more.

“Although most strength training textbooks recommend three strength training sessions per week (Baechle and Earle 2005; Baechle and Earle 2008; Fleck and Kraemer 1997; Westcott 1995a), some research indicates that two strength workouts per week may be as effective (Braith et al. 1989; DeMichele et al. 1997). Specifically, twice-a-week strength training appears to be highly productive for developing strength in men and women over the age of 50 (Stadler, Stubbs, and Vukovich 1997; Westcott and Guy 1996; Westcott et al. 2009).” – TRAINING FREQUENCY REQUIREMENTS FOR OLDER ADULTS

How will you know how much rest to take between weight training sessions? Pay attention to your body; the exact time may vary by woman depending on her baseline fitness level. If you find yourself consistently sore and are struggling with the next workout; it may be time to take a break. Pushing yourself is not going to improve your overall fitness level and will eventually lead to injury.

At 50+, you probably have already begun re-thinking areas of your life: hair; make-up; fashion; finances; relationships. Why should the way in which you stay fit and healthy be any different? Spend some time and energy re-vamping your training regiment. If you’re lucky enough to be a grandmother or become one in the future; you can play hot wheels or barbies and the only audio track heard will be your grandkid’s peals of laughter.

As always, check-in with your physician before undertaking any new physical activities. We, at Kuel Life, want to make sure all you KUEL women stay happy and healthy.

 

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