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You are never too old to commit to an exercise plan. Whether you have been exercising all your life, or have a new-found commitment at age 50, exercise can help you age gracefully, cope with the symptoms of menopause and prevent serious disease. Regular exercise also prevents the upward creep of the scale and keeps you strong so you can continue to perform daily activities effortlessly.
Needs at 50
As you move toward menopause, the changes in your hormone levels can cause you to gain weight and store more fat. Exercise and attention to a nutritious, portion-controlled diet can stave off these unhappy side effects of getting older. A study in the 2010 issue of вЂњObstetrics and Gynecology InternationalвЂќ found that women between the ages of 45 and 65 who included both resistance and aerobic exercise three times per week for eight weeks experienced a decrease in menopausal symptoms and feelings of depression while experiencing better psychological health and quality of life. The American Association of Retired Persons points out that after the age of 50, you lose muscle mass at an accelerated rate of about half a pound per year - especially if you do not engage in exercise to retain it. After the age of 50, you are also susceptible to bone weakening - often caused by osteoporosis. Strength training and weight-bearing cardiovascular exercise, such as walking, jogging or hiking, can help you maintain bone density and prevent frailty.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises adults up to age 65 to get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity weekly. Moderate-intensity activity gets your heart pumping and causes you to break a bit of a sweat - think power walking, cycling or swimming. If you are up for more intensity, you can do 75 minutes of vigorous cardiovascular activity weekly - such as running or high-impact aerobics. You could also combine the two and do about 37 minutes of high-intensity and 75 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio weekly to keep your heart healthy and burn excess calories. For even greater health benefits, increase the amount of time you spend doing either type of cardiovascular activity.
Aim for at least two strength-training sessions per week and perform them on non-consecutive days. These sessions should target most major muscle groups, including the legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms, using your own body weight, dumbbells, machine weights or resistance bands. Power, vinyasa and Ashtanga vinyasa yoga classes may also count as strength training. Remember to leave at least one day between training muscle groups for strength and allow yourself one or two rest days from cardiovascular activity per week.
Flexibility is an important component of fitness that should be regularly included in your program, especially after the age of 50. As you grow older, you tend to lose flexibility as a result of inactivity and the natural aging process. Stretching regularly helps keep your muscles and joints flexible so you continue to have freedom of movement and good posture. A flexibility program also helps reduce soreness after workouts and reduces your risk of getting injured. Yoga and Pilates are ways to incorporate mindful stretching into your fitness routine. These classes can also help reduce stress and induce mental relaxation. Ideally, you should include a flexibility training session into your routine three times per week for 30 minutes says the American Council on Exercise. If that is too much time for your schedule, aim for a minimum of five minutes at the end of each of your strength and cardio exercise sessions. Hold a stretch for each of the the major muscle groups for 15 to 30 seconds to reap the most benefit.
Planning Your Routine
Before embarking on a fitness routine, consult your physician for clearance. If you are new to exercise, plan to start slowly. Try fitting in your cardiovascular needs in 10-minute increments, which the CDC notes can be just as effective as longer bouts. For example, instead of going for 30 minutes of power walking all at once - go for a 10-minute walk before breakfast, around lunchtime and after dinner. You should also consider any physical limitations or health conditions you have when planning your routines. If you have joint pain, consider using an elliptical machine rather than a treadmill. Other low-impact options include swimming and cycling. Enlist the expertise of a certified personal trainer to help you develop a strength-training routine that works for your body and experience level. Even if you cannot afford weekly guidance, one or two sessions can help you learn proper form and technique.